Contest encouraging safe travel and tourism in southeast South Dakota

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It’s National Travel and Tourism week, but this year, things look very different because of the pandemic.

Each year roughly 14.5 million people visit South Dakota, spending $4.1 billion in the state.

“It’s the number two industry in South Dakota, it supports about 55,000 jobs,” Gary Keller with Southeast South Dakota Tourism said. “It’s a serious impact.”

Keller said late last month, travel spending was down more than 83 percent.

“COVID has had an impact on tourism that’s for sure and tourism is seriously down in some places, but there are some bright spots too,” Keller said.

“It reminds us that there are good things not far from home, a little bit off the beaten path, and this is a treasure, we’ll definitely be back,” Carmen Mach said.

A visit to Good Earth State Park brought Steve and Carmen Mach away from their Yankton home for the first time in weeks.

“This is probably going to be our normal for the summer, more shorter trips and more outdoor activities,” Steve Mach said.

To help promote more tourism in southeast South Dakota the organization is giving away a kayak, a contest open to anyone who comes to southeast South Dakota this summer.

“It’s open to any body, it’s even open to anyone living in South Dakota,” Keller said.

Keller expects to see a boost in local tourism this summer.

“There’s some great parks here and you can stay away from folks and still enjoy it and South Dakotans from other parts of the state come here as well so it’s not just people from out of state,” Keller said.

So while your big summer travel plans may have changed, there are still plenty of local options to help safely support the state’s tourism industry.

“There’s a lot of people still hiking, boating, I think it’s going to be a big year for campers,” Keller said.

“The grass is still green, it’s still growing, not everything has changed, it’s a good reminder that not everything is upside down,” Carmen Mach said.

Facilities at South Dakota’s State Parks are scheduled to open later this month but campgrounds and trails and parks are already open to the public.

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