RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Airports around the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Rapid City Regional. However, the airport is optimistic for the upcoming tourism season with more flights added for the summer.
In the last few months, Rapid City Regional Airport has added 10 new seasonal flights with Allegiant, a new flight to and from LaGuardia, New York, during summertime, and a new airline, Boutique Air.
“Last year, we were down roughly 50 percent in passengers and we anticipate this year with the loads that we are seeing, the seats available for the airlines that are going to be coming in, that this year will put us well on the way to our recovery,” Patrick Dame, Executive Director of Rapid City Regional Airport, said.
With the help of these new flights, tourism in the region could see an impact.
Julie Jensen, the CEO of Visit Rapid City, says last year, the Black Hills region saw about an 11 to 15 percent decrease in visitor numbers.
“I think this last year really proved how important the great outdoors is. So we did so well. I mean certainly not as well as the year before but the airlines took note of that and they said, ‘Gosh, maybe Rapid City is a destination,” Julie Jensen, CEO of Visit Rapid City, said.
Executive Director of Rapid City Regional says the airport’s priority is that each passenger feels comfortably flying.
“In seeing our customers coming back, we think it’s a fantastic thing. We are working very hard to keep the terminal clean and make sure that everyone feels safe in traveling and we really hope that everyone can get out this tourism season and take that trip that you’ve been waiting to take,” Dame said.
The Executive Director says the passenger numbers for the beginning of 2021 are down 40 percent. However, Rapid City is tracking above the national average of other airports.