PIERRE, S.D. -- The Black Hills and Badlands region of South Dakota saw the most visitor spending in 2018, while the Southeastern region saw the largest amount of growth in spending from the year prior, according to a new report from the state Department of Tourism.

State Department of Tourism Secretary James Hagen said in a Thursday, April 11, news release said the report showed "strong numbers" that "prove once again that tourism is an incredibly important part of the South Dakota economy."

“The impact these visitors have on communities across our state is significant," Hagen said. "They come to enjoy the beauty of our open prairies, fish our pristine lakes and abundant rivers, hunt our bountiful fields and stand in awe at our memorials and monuments. These visitors support restaurants, marinas, hotels and attractions in communities large and small."

According to the report released Thursday, tourists spent nearly $1.6 billion on things like lodging, food, recreation and transportation in the Black Hills and Badlands region in 2018, up 2% from the previous year. Visitor spending in the region contributed to 39.2% of the state's total $4 billion in 2018 industry sales -- the largest contributor of four regions.

Within the Black Hills and Badlands region, 80% of visitor spending occurs within Lawrence and Pennington Counties. Nearly 20% of all statewide tourism dollars were spent in Pennington County -- where the state's second-largest city Rapid City is located -- alone.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Not far behind was the southeastern region of the state with $1.5 billion in visitor spending, or 38.3% of the statewide industry. The southeastern region saw the most significant amount of growth in 2018, with visitor spending up 3.6% from 2017.

Within the region, 73% of visitor spending occurs within Minnehaha County, where the state's most populous city Sioux Falls is located. Minnehaha County alone accounts for 28 percent of all statewide tourism income.

Nearly 15% of the state's tourism income was attributed to the Glacial Lakes and Prairies region, where visitors spent $591 million in 2018, up 1.4% from 2017. Nearly two-thirds of visitor spending in the region occurred in Brown, Brookings and Codington counties.

The Missouri River region saw approximately $306 million in tourism spending, up 1.9% from 2017 and making up 7.7% of the statewide industry in 2018. Nearly 26% of visitor spending in the region was attributed to Hughes County, where the capital city of Pierre is located. Of the state's total tourism income, Hughes County accounted for less than 2%.

In total, tourism is the state's second-largest industry behind agriculture, and brought in nearly $4 billion in visitor spending and $2.7 billion in GDP. Nearly $300 million in state and local tax revenue in 2018 were a result of tourism spending, and the industry grew statewide for the ninth straight year in 2018.