How COVID-19 is impacting the South Dakota tourism industry

Local News

Tourism is just one of the industries taking a hit from the COVID-19 crisis.

Ron Lutz owns a bed and breakfast in Pierre.

The business owner welcomes lots of tourists at the Hitching Horse Inn, not just those visiting the Capital City, but also people experiencing the Rushmore State.

“I get so many people here that the next stop tomorrow is the Badlands,” Hitching Horse Inn Owner Ron Lutz said.

The Hitching Horse Inn is closed to the public during the legislative session as lawmakers stay there, but it was slated to open back up in early April.

“I had a lot of reservations for April and for May and they all cancelled. Every one of them,” Lutz said.

On Monday, South Dakota’s secretary of tourism shared another unfortunate story.

“The first week into this pandemic I heard from one of our hoteliers in the Black Hills. He said, ‘Jim, I’ve already lost a million dollars in reservations in just one of my hotels,'” South Dakota Secretary of Tourism Jim Hagen said.

Secretary Hagen calls the times incredibly tough, but he says the Department of Tourism is trying to help people and the industry in a number of ways, including working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“We have partnered very closely with them to make sure that the tourism industry, especially our businesses know exactly of all the aid and relief programs that are out there to assist them,” Hagen said.

For now, Lutz is closed through the month of April for business and safety reasons, but he’s staying positive.

“I’m hoping we can get our country back on track very soon,” Lutz said.

Secretary Hagen says the Tourism Department is also partnering with the SBA and it has some team members who have volunteered to assist at the State Emergency Operations Center.

If you are a member of the tourism industry and you’re looking for assistance, click here.

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