In the past when Americans were planning their vacations, their top destinations were always beaches and big cities. For the first time in decades, that’s changing. Now, the American people want to visit the great outdoors. They want to see beautiful parks and small towns that remind them how life used to be. Well, South Dakota has that in spades.
It’s no wonder that South Dakota is No. 1 in America in year-over-year tourism. Our state record for visitations was set in 2019, and we’re on pace to blow that number out of the water. People are looking for freedom and fresh air. And word has gotten around that South Dakota is the place to get it.
Given that tourism is our state’s 2nd largest industry, this is tremendous news for our economy. Visitor spending so far this year is 9% higher than 2019, our record-setting year. And that visitor spending leads to higher tax revenues for our state, helping drive our record surplus announced earlier this month.
What’s really remarkable is how many folks are taking road trips to South Dakota. In fact, even though airport arrivals are down 24% compared to 2019, we’re still on pace to shatter visitation records, meaning that more folks are driving here than ever before. We love to see license plates from all across the country decorating our roads!
As South Dakotans, it can be easy to forget that these beautiful national treasures are right in our own backyard. Don’t forget to take some time and enjoy them with your family. We have beautiful summers here, but the summer is already halfway gone. So take in the fresh air. Catch a baseball game. Visit a state park. Celebrate the great places that make South Dakota special. If you can’t go on a full family vacation, visit some of the natural beauty that’s not too far from home – we have it in every corner of our state. Summer is a fantastic time to make memories together.
I’m sure that many of you have friends and family visiting our state, maybe for the first time. Show them around. Share our state’s breathtaking landscapes with them. Make a day trip to Mount Rushmore. These folks are coming to South Dakota to make memories. I’m glad that they have such wonderful South Dakotans to share those memories with.
Above all, remember to be happy. We woke up this morning in the United States of America. Better yet, we woke up in South Dakota, the freest state in the Land of the Free. As record-breaking visitors continue to roll into our state, remember to greet them with smiling faces. After all, “great faces” isn’t just about Mount Rushmore; it’s about the fantastic people that make our state so special.