SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The state’s department of tourism spent nearly $15 million on marketing in 2021, but the return was billions of dollars or millions, depending on the figures.

Katlyn Svendsen, the global media and public relations director for the department of tourism said the department spent $14.69 million in marketing during the 2021 calendar year.

Visitors spent $4.4 billion in the state in 2021 which translated to $345 million state and local tax dollars, according to the department of tourism.

According to the state’s Game Fish and Parks Department, hunters alone spend about $202 million in the state.

Marketing money may be spent on broadcast TV ads or through other options, but it’s designed to attract the visitor to what South Dakota has to offer.

Badlands. South Dakota Department of Tourism photo.

The department of tourism used what it described as a stacked approach in 2021.

“2021’s campaigns employ a stacked-marketing approach for targeted viewers, utilizing touchpoints across mediums. This multi-channel approach includes broadcast, cable, and connected television; online and interactive video, outdoor/out-of-home (OOH), national and large-circulation regional magazines,” the tourism website said.

The department monitored the success of the campaigns including online impressions.

“In total, we generated more than an estimated 1 billion impressions and more than 49 million engagements – both record numbers. These are conservative numbers as they reflect only the numbers we know with confidence we can track back specifically to our marketing tactics that users engaged with,” Svendsen said.

Impressions can turn into visits and overnight stays. And the department wants to know how many minutes users spend on the state’s TravelSouthDakota.com website.

“From the nearly 500 million impressions we can track, we estimate nearly $114 million dollars in hotel revenue was generated and more than 461,000 hotels and flights were booked to our state,” Svendsen said. “Visitors to TravelSouthDakota.com spent a total of 5.9 million minutes on the site engaging with more than 5.43 million pages.”

The marketing efforts are geared toward primary markets of Colorado and Minnesota, for two examples. The Department also has primary metro markets such as Minneapolis and Chicago. Non-primary markets include Des Moines, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska.

The number of visitors in South Dakota didn’t equal the amount in 2019, 2018, or 2017 but they did spend more money.

Visitors spent a record $4.5 billion in South Dakota in 2021, according to the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

The visitors and spending increased from the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020 in a state where Gov. Kristi Noem repeatedly said was open for business and visitors. The same message was shared throughout 2021.

While visitor spending reach a record level in 2021, the state had 13.5 million visitors, fewer than the 14.5 million who came in 2019.

Outside attractions

In September of 2020, Noem announced she planned to spend $5 million in CARES COVID relief money to promote tourism in South Dakota. Advertising included promoting the Badlands and other outdoor features.

Outdoor activities are big source of South Dakota’s tourism revenue.

The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department estimates that outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and others spend $1.3 billion annually in support of these activities.

In 2019 alone, the GPF said resident and nonresident pheasant hunters spent $202.4 million in the state.

In 2021, the state turned its attention to promoting hunting amidst a slight decline in non-resident hunting license sales.

The tourism department and the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department cooperated on a plan to promote South Dakota hunting and retaining those hunters in the primary markets of Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado.

Based on 2021 license reports that promotion had a positive impact.

The GFP reported 78,002 nonresident small game licenses were sold in 2021.

That’s at least 10,000 more than what were sold in 2020 and 2019 and about 8,000 more than what was sold in 2018.

“With a robust partnership with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department, (2021) we saw a 19% increase in non-resident pheasant licenses compared to the three-year average. Even better, youth small game licenses were up 83% over the three-year average,” Svendsen said.

On Jan. 5, KELOLAND News reported that GFP and the tourism department were planning to promote fishing to residents and non residents in 2022.

Anglers spend $271 million on the activity in the state, according to the GFP.

Nonresident annual fishing licenses were under 30,000 from 2018 until 2021 when sold licenses reached 32,351.

Both resident and nonresident licenses in annual or 1-day licenses have been up and down since 2018. But, resident fishing licenses in those two categories hit peaks in 2021.

Annual resident fishing licenses totaled 67,340 in 2020 only to drop to 55,512 in 2021.

Svendsen said the tourism department anticipates spending $11.5 million in marketing in the 2022 calendar year.

Visits to state parks spend about $212 million a year.

The GFP recently reported record years for camping units and visitors at state parks in 2021.

The numbers for camping and visiting state parks were high in 2021. There was a record 2.3 million visitors at Custer.

The park also drew 59,171 camper units in 2021.

Overall, the GFP said 394,714 camping units were used and more than 8 million people visited the state parks.

Noem did mention an additional 176-unit campground at Custer State Park in her Jan. 11 State of the State speech but Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, the co-chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee said on Jan. 23 that he has received mostly negative feedback about the proposal. He was doubtful the proposal would make it out of committee.