TRAVEL SOUTH DAKOTA's Industry Outreach & Development Representative and Cultural Heritage Tourism Manager Calvin Bloemendaal was the keynote speaker for the most recent edition of "Espresso Yourself" held by the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning at the 2nd St. Diner.
For the people who live in South Dakota, it’s easy to identify what makes the state special. However, when it comes to tourism, the trick is to clue in the unacquainted. Like other smaller states, South Dakota may fly under the national radar, yet the state still has plenty to offer its visitors.
Highlighting this fact is the mission of Travel South Dakota (TSD), a part of the state Department of Tourism, whose representatives spoke with members of the community during the most recent “Espresso Yourself” event held by the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. The event was held Thursday morning at the 2nd St. Diner.
At the meeting, TSD’s Industry Outreach & Development Representative and Cultural Heritage Tourism Manager Calvin Bloemendaal outlined the group’s plans to increase state tourism as well as the economic benefits that accompany this growth.
“Tourism is economic development,” Bloemendaal said during his presentation. “In fact, it’s the front door to economic development.”
Bloemendaal explained that the Department of Tourism is comprised of two divisions: tourism and the S.D. Arts Council, with tourism being divided into four teams. These include Global Media & Public Relations; Global Travel & Trade; Global Marketing & Brand Strategy; and Industry Outreach, Development & Research.
“Together, we monitor how the industry is doing and make sure that we’re on the right track,” Bloemendaal noted. He added that this is the first year of their new strategic plan, which they try to update every three years. Within this plan are the group’s “imperatives,” their specific goals for growing tourism in the state.
Among these goals are to enhance and expand the state brand both nationally and internationally, to better distribute visitors to all parts of the state, and to diversify their marketing to broader audiences across the country.
“Over the pandemic, we were able to stay open, which really put us in a spotlight for leisure travel and in a sense, business travel as well,” Bloemendaal stated, “and we’re using that to sort of leverage our position to make sure that we stay top of the line for a broader market.”
Bloemendaal revealed that the group’s ultimate goal is to make South Dakota a top ten U.S. vacation spot over the next decade. While he acknowledges this is a lofty goal, he’s also confident it can be achieved.
Additionally, Travel SD hopes to expand the tourism season beyond the summer, positioning the state for yearlong benefits. Bloemendaal said this will be done while still prioritizing responsible tourism and ensuring cities and townships are not overwhelmed by the number of visitors.
Bloemendaal also highlighted South Dakota’s 2022 tourism numbers, with the state receiving 14.4 million visitors, a .6% increase from the previous year. The economic kicker is the $4.7 billion in spending this generated, which is an 8% increase from 2021. This resulted in $361 million in sales tax for the state, including $2.6 million in just Lake County.
“Every $1 spent to market tourism generates $5 in tax revenue,” Bloemendaal said.
On top of this, the tourism and hospitality industry supported 56,826 jobs across the state, generating $2.1 billion in household income in the process. In Lake County alone, the industry created $13.6 million in household income.
Travel SD also showed the results of a variety of studies and surveys they’d conducted over the last year. These ranged from whether citizens understood the benefits of tourism to how the state was viewed by insiders and outsiders. Bloemendaal noted that the results of these studies and surveys revealed positive impressions South Dakota can build upon as well as an internal desire to grow tourism within the state.
He added that Travel SD plans to combine all these ideas into their new program, “So Much South Dakota, So Little Time,” which will also feature cooperation with the state’s tribal nations. Along with this, they also plan to offer a mobile passport program by the end of the year, with more details to be forthcoming.