Summer travel boost brings Sioux Falls hotel industry close to full recovery

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Summer tourism season is back in full swing in Sioux Falls, a welcome boost in business for the hotel industry that was hit hard during the pandemic.

“We have business down here in Sioux Falls,” Paul Dinzeo said. 

Travelers like Dinzeo are checking into Sioux Falls hotels on a regular basis this summer.

“We’re probably on the road a couple of times a month, so three to five hotel rooms per month since May. We’re probably, six to ten times is where our target is, so we’re about halfway there,” Dinzeo said. 

“Some of our corporate is starting to come back,” Kelly Inn, ltd President & CEO Brenda Schmidt said. “The leisure is the highest demand, which always is in the summer months. We’re so glad to see the activity back to normal.”

Brenda Schmidt manages the Hotel on Phillips and 19 other hotel properties across the Midwest.

“There’s been a lot of pent-up demand,” Schmidt said. 

While their occupancy rates are back up to 90 percent or more on the weekends, she says the hotel industry hasn’t fully recovered quite yet.

“I think over all it’s going to take until 2022 to get all the corporate back and get all of the groups back,” Schmidt said. 

“Conventions just aren’t back yet, so we’re struggling a little bit with that,” Experience Sioux Falls Executive Director Teri Schmidt said. “For example, the hotels right around the convention center have to work harder at going after some of that other business.”

“Sporting events are kind of half our business,” The Holiday Inn & Suites Sioux Falls Airport General Manager Justin Kallas said. 

As the manager of the Holiday Inn across from the PREMIER Center, Kallas says the return of a full lineup of events will bring that last missing piece to Sioux Falls hotels’ full recovery after the pandemic.

“It’s a night and day difference from this year to last year,” Kallas said. 
But now that customers are returning, the hotel industry is facing another issue.

“Leisure travel is coming back, the hotels are doing better, the biggest struggle they have right now is workforce,” Teri Schmidt said. 

“We had most of the staff laid off due to covid,” Kallas said. 

Now getting those workers back is a big challenge.

“South Dakota is one of the lowest unemployment rates of all of the states,” Brenda Schmidt said. 

But with the staff they do have, hotels in Sioux Falls are happy to see the return of travelers this summer.

“They’re thrilled to have people back, fostering that community whether its business or personal,” Dinzeo said. 

While industry leaders say Sioux Falls hotel industry isn’t quite fully recovered, the current occupancy rates are very close to what the city saw in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic hit. 

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