It could be a good year for tourism in the state, at least that's what state leaders are saying.
Visitors to South Dakota spent close to $2 billion last year according to the state's tourism department. Since it means more sales tax dollars coming in, state leaders are trying to see that number increase this year.
"We do a lot of marketing specifically within our region here and our surrounding states. But we do some national advertising as well," deputy tourism secretary Wanda Goodman said.
A lot of visitors come from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota, Goodman said. The state advertises in other areas too and is specifically trying to increase visitor traffic from a couple larger cities in the Midwest this year.
"Actually we, just a couple weeks ago, returned from Chicago and Milwaukee with our Rushmore mascots,” Goodman said.
The mascots and other workers with the tourism department went to various locations in Chicago to make contact with potential visitors. They also sponsored and spent time at a baseball series between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, Goodman said.
Goodman says the state also has some digital and magazine advertisements reaching people all over the country.
Adding to those extra efforts this travel season, national trends could help. Goodman says experts expect a six percent increase in leisure travel across the country this year. She says one national report shows people are coming out of recession hibernation and are more willing to spend money on travel.
Still, unexpected challenges could take away from what appears to be an optimistic tourism season so far.
"We just try to stay flexible and nimble and know that if we need to change up our messaging in order to respond to something such as gas prices or weather, that we're ready to do that," Goodman said.