SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With the start of a new year, it seems at least some Americans thoughts turned to travel.
According to Destination Analysts, a travel and tourism research firm, Americans in a travel-ready state-of-mind returned to 52.9% as of Jan. 4. after dropping below 50% at the end of Dec. 1.
But, while there appears to be an increase in people willing to travel, don’t expect that travel to happen soon.
About 55.9% of Americans are not expecting the coronavirus pandemic to improve in the next month, according to Destination Analysts.
About two-thirds of American travelers have planned no travel prior to summer 2021, the website Travel Pulse said on Dec. 22. The number is based on Longwoods International’s latest edition.
Some of the plans of Americans could put South Dakota in the driver’s seat.
Travel Pulse reported that “72% of travelers who’d planned travel within the next six months said they’ll be changing their plans due to the pandemic.” Some of those planned to switch to traveling by car.
South Dakota tourism officials have often cited the state’s location and position of various tourist attractions as an idea for those traveling by vehicle.
The state is a destination that people can reach by car and people have felt safe traveling in vehicles during the pandemic, South Dakota Department of Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen said in a Sept. 3 KELOLAND.Original story.
About 1 million visitors to the state came from the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area, according to South Dakota Tourism‘s numbers as of October.
Another big chunk of travelers came from Denver, Colorado, as 523,000 of residents from that area came to South Dakota.
Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska were other top states to generate visitors in South Dakota.
Traveling in vehicles and visiting outdoor spaces were ways people felt safe traveling during the pandemic in 2020, according to various travel and tourism research firms.
It’s one likely reason why visits to state parks increased by 4.4% from 2019 to 2020, as of the October report on the S.D. Tourism website.
Visitors came from outside South Dakota but state residents also visited the parks, state officials said in 2020.
Ali Jo Tonsfeldt, a park manager at Fort Sisseton State Park with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department, said the park along with Sica Hollow State Park, Roy Lake State Park and Pickerel Lake State Park all had first-time visitors this year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shane Bertsch, the GFP district park supervisor at the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area in Yankton, tracked the home state residences of campers in the southeast district.
As of September, 48.2% of campers came from South Dakota compared to 49.4% in 2019.
Iowa and Nebraska were the other two top states in both years. Of all campers through September, 16.6% were from Iowa, 31.3% were from Nebraska and 3.9% were from other states.
While the state still drew visitors, it doesn’t mean segments of the travel and tourism didn’t struggle in 2020.
As of Dec. 8, Teri Schmidt with Experience Sioux Falls, formerly the Convention and Visitor Bureau, said hotel occupancy in the city was down 45% over last year.
The state tourism department said hotel and lodging occupancy declined by 15% in November actuals. That’s better than some other nearby states such as Iowa which saw a decline of 26.9% and Minnesota, which had a decline of 42.1%, according to South Dakota tourism. The average loss in the U.S. was 34.5% in November actuals.
Early industry signs show that it could be some time before hotels and other lodging recover from the pandemic. The population density and location of South Dakota, 46th of 50 states in density, could mean a quicker recovery than the rest of the U.S.
The majority of those who indicated they planned to travel in the next three months said they would do overnight trips with most of those being regional trips. One third planned to stay with relatives or friends, according to Destination Analysts.
Cities, small towns and rural areas were some of the main destination for those who planned to travel, Destination Analysts said.
Loss of any visitors means loss of tax revenue for South Dakota.
Travel spending declined by $56 million in the state November compared to November 2019, the state said.
In Sioux Falls, the cancellation of the Pheasant Fest in February meant a $4 million economic loss for the Sioux Falls area, Schmidt said.