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Day County sees dip in tourism despite statewide increase

by George Thompson, Reporter and Farmer
A hot, dry summer resulted in South Dakota’s visitor industry showing improvement over 2011. A new report from IHS Global Insight shows that the total economic impact of the state’s 2012 visitor industry increased last year by five percent which translates into an overall economic impact of nearly $2 billion.

Another study on return-on-investment conducted by Longwoods International showed that, for every dollar spent on marketing by the state Department of Tourism, the state gets $5 in tax revenues.

“In 2012, our vibrant visitor sector once again proved that it is a job-creating, revenue-generating industry,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said. “Tourism produced $291 million in state and local tax revenues last year and eased the tax burden on South Dakotans to the tune of $878 per household.”

Tourism’s impact, as defined by IHS Global Insight, includes only those dollars that are retained within South Dakota. It includes core tourism (visitor spending), non-core tourism (spending by tourism industry suppliers), government spending (tourism marketing dollars, info center expenditures), private investment in infrastructure and resident outbound expenditures.

In Day County, tourism was a $23,602,300 industry last year which represents 4.9 percent of county sales and .6 percent of state tourism sales. That figure is down .1 percent from 2011 when $23,631,000 was reported.

“Part of it (the sales downturn) may have been because the American Legion Class B baseball tourney was cancelled when the lights fell down, but the tournament will be back this year,” noted Webster Area Chamber of Commerce secretary Marcia Lefman. “The economy was still recovering last year, but I think 2013 will be a better year and the chamber is striving to make things better.”

2012 State Tourism by the Numbers:

• More than 27,731 jobs were supported by core travel and tourism economic activity of which 230 were in Day County.

• Tourism activity generated $291 million in state and local government revenues in 2012.

• Without tourism, each household would pay about $878 more in taxes each year.

• One out of every 11 South Dakota jobs depend on travel and tourism.

• 8.3 percent of visitor spending came from international visitors.

A breakdown of 2012 sales shows $10,963,900 was spent in lodging, $8,427,300 in shopping, $2,938,300 in food and $1,272,700 in entertainment.

Comparing those numbers to the 2011 figures shows lodging was up 7.5 percent or about $760,600, shopping was down 2.1 percent or about $171,100 while food was down 14 percent or about $479,500 and entertainment fell 9.4 percent or $132,400. In other words, travelers stayed here more but shopped, ate and entertained themselves less than the year before.

“My thoughts are that business was a little better than the year before,” remarked Sportsman’s Cove owner Doug Johnson. “I’d say we saw a modest increase over 2011.”

Johnson points out that fishermen will come during the hot weather, more so than when it gets extremely cold. “I’d say our instate and outstate visitors were both up,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t negative. We really didn’t hear much talk about the economy even with high gas prices.”

A spokesperson for The Galley said their 2012 lodging and food sales were well above those in 2011. “We really don’t have a down time anymore,” she said.

Comparing Day to surrounding counties saw Day come in third best per capita as far as sales rankings go. Clark had the highest sales at $6,310,200 for an increase of four percent over the year before, Brown was up two percent at $227,825,400. Roberts was down 1.6 percent at $38,453,100. Other counties recording decreases included Marshall, two percent at $8,760,300; Codington, 2.3percent at $122,229,000 and Grant, 2.8 percent at $20,833,500.

“Visitors are an important piece of our economic development work. They help us spread the word about the great communities of Day County, and we are pleased to see these friends turn their favorite vacation spot into their home,” said Melissa Fose, interim director Webster Area Development Corporation. “Not only is the Webster Area a fantastic place to live and play, but also great for businesses.”

Jay and Junior Pereboom, owners of Pereboom’s Cafe and Boomer’s Outback House & Hotel, felt the 7.5 percent increase in lodging was probably accurate, but noted a 14 percent drop in food sales doesn’t fit in with what they realized. Jay suspects the individual numbers in Webster may have been better than those for the entire county. He also noted Waubay tourism suffered due to the flooding. Both Perebooms agree that while agriculture remains the mainstay of the local economy, tourism has grown into an important year round industry here.

“The visitor industry and the Department of Tourism work hard to share the South Dakota story with millions of potential visitors each year,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary of Tourism. “It’s very fulfilling to see that hard work result in positive growth.”