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Drought Changes Tourism Season

October 9, 2012, 7:17 AM by Kellee Azar

Drought Changes Tourism Season

The past six months have not been easy for anyone when it comes to the unpredictable weather. Even sporting goods shops, which usually do very well in all seasons, saw a big change.

"Well, no one expects to see a drought to the extent that we have and it really was kind of a surprise, you know. Boat sales typically do slow down at the end of summer after the Fourth of July but not come to a standstill," Sun 'N Fun co-owner Jim Whitcomb said.

Those sales did come to standstill after what seemed like it would be an early and strong season for boaters.

"Last winter it came to an abrupt end mid-March.  The next day it was 80 degrees and we started selling boats right away," Whitcomb said.

It was kayaks that took the biggest hit and that's because of how low the Big Sioux River got.

"We were always wondering how many people buy kayaks to take to the lake, verses down the Sioux River. We learned that this year.  When the river dries up, that does slow down boat sales," Whitcomb said.

With the ups and downs though, it was a learning experience. For all of Sioux Falls, many travelers learned there's more than water sports to enjoy.

"It was really rather interesting.  We held our own.  In fact our numbers are up a little bit," Teri Schmidt with the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

For the future though, it's a word of caution for everyone.

"I just think we all have to be cautiously optimistic, you know.  We have been comfortable in Sioux Falls and in most of South Dakota so we can never take that for granted.  And we just have to continue to work hard to do what's best for the guest and hopefully that will pay off in the end," Schmidt said.

Schmidt believes if we do see an effect on tourism it will happen next spring, especially if we have a dry winter.

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