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June 03, 2012 05:34 PM

Strong Start To Tourism Season

Keystone, SD

The summer tourism season is off to a great start in the Black Hills and if early numbers are any indication, it's shaping up to be a good year.

Tourism is the second largest industry in South Dakota and nowhere is that more important than in the vacation town of Keystone.

"We always come over to the Black Hills when we come up.  Usually we'll hit Mount Rushmore.  This year we hit the 1880's Train," Oklahoma resident Lisa Laurence said.

"It's really high.  I was a little nervous at first because I didn't know how high the train would go, but it was actually really fun," 11-year-old Keely Laurence said.

This Memorial Day weekend was strong for many businesses.

"We're right on par with what we did last year and last year was a good year.  I think tourism is on the up and coming again in the Black Hills," K-Bar-S Lodge general manager Tony Kassin said.

According to the state Department of Tourism, hotel occupancy is up nearly eight-percent so far this year, state park visitation is up almost 30 percent and inquiries about visiting the state are up 13-percent.

"It's not just a place where you're just going to see an amusement park.  I mean, you can hit something for your teenager.  You can hit something for grandma and grandpa.  You can hit something for mom and dad," Lisa said.

Even though there's something for everybody in places like Keystone, the area also offers guests a unique experience.

"You know, there are not many places where you can go back and go to the past like you can here," Lisa said.

"I really like history and I just think it's cool," Keely said.

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