2016 Black Hills Tourism Index: -3.44% | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

2016 Black Hills Tourism Index: -3.44%

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With the first quarter of 2017 nearly complete, the 2016 year-end numbers and figures that are factored into the Black Hills Tourism Index are now available. This allows us to issue a final report on the performance of 2016 as a whole. Calculated in relation to the prior year, (in this case, 2015—a year that ended at a positive 11.41% on our index) the final resting position of the Black Hills Tourism Index fell to -3.44% for 2016. 

While a negative number is never fun to report, it is understandable when we remember the banner events and national media attention that came our way in 2015. With two milestone events—the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the 50th Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup—2015 was a record-setting year by all accounts. Keeping this perspective in mind, it isn't much of a surprise to see 2016 slip slightly in comparison.

Diving deeper into the year-end numbers, there were still a number of factors that rose year-over-year. Badlands National Park saw a 2% increase in visitation—nearly 20,000 more visitors than in 2015. Similarly, Devils Tower National Monument saw an increase of 3.6%—equalling over 17,000 more visitors last year. While Wind Cave National Park saw fewer visitors (down 9.2%), both Jewel Cave National Monument and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site saw enormous increases in visitation; +17.9%—nearly 21,000 more visitors at Jewel Cave and +33.1%—over 33,000 more visitors at Minuteman.

The downward slip was most measurable in our region's Taxable Sales figures—an aggregate amount derived from 14 of our local counties. 2016 Taxable Sales were down 7.5%, which equates to $34.2 million down from 2015. The Deadwood Gaming Handle was also noticeably down 4.8% compared to 2015.

With early metrics in place for January 2017, the Black Hills Tourism Index is nearly even compared to the same time frame last year: -0.29%. Now that we have a complete picture of 2016, we're optimistic about what lies ahead for the remainder of 2017. With unprecedented national media attention in both 2015 and 2016, we expect to see a residual trickling effect for the next few years—but it is critical that we continue to provide one-of-a-kind vacation opportunities that are supported by exemplary customer service. This is what will continue to set the Black Hills & Badlands apart from other destinations!