Surge in summer travelers brings optimism in Black Hills travel industry

An increased amount of travelers has the Black Hills travel industry optimistic for a strong tourism season.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The summer season equals tourism season in the Black Hills.

“Saw some prairie dogs, saw more bison than I ever imaged that I would and after a while, it’s like ‘oh bison, like it’s just like seeing a dog’,” said Mary Blum, from North Carolina.

In getting to western South Dakota this time of year, Rapid City Regional Airport welcomes travelers with open arms, especially in the wake of a pandemic year.

“In terms of our loads, we’ve definitely seen a pick up,” said Patrick Dame, the Executive Director for the Rapid City Regional Airport. “We’ll find out in the next couple weeks here in terms of how may went. June is definitely looking strong already for us and I think the rest of the summer is going to show more of the same.”

While travel numbers aren’t in yet, Dame says that according to TSA and car rental reports, people are certainly still arriving in the Black Hills.

Summer Tourism 2

“We typically run about 70% of our passenger loads in basically in about a three to four month period and so a lot of that is based on the tourism market,” Dame said.

That tourism market now in full swing.

Joel and Mary Blum from North Carolina, making the trip to see things like Mount Rushmore that they’ve waited to see their whole life.

“It was wonderful,” Joel Blum said. “It took 60 some years to years but it was wonderful. Above my expectations.”

But the increase not just in Rapid City.

The Black Hills Airport in Spearfish reporting a 25 percent increase in fuel sales, while the Hot Springs Airport fielding an increase in cross country travelers.

“One was from Chicago, another from Colorado, so we’re getting people coming in from all over the country and they’re coming here really all three of these that I answered this morning were specially going to tour the area,” said Tracy Bastian, the Interim Manager of the Hot Springs Airport.

Seasonal crowds landing in the hills helping tourism numbers take off.

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