2023 Annual Meeting Press Release | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

2023 Annual Meeting Press Release

  • 2023 Annual Meeting Press Release

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023
For more information, contact: Michelle Thomson, President & CEO,

Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association, 605-355-3600

Regional Travel Industry Reviews 2023 Tourism Season

RAPID CITY, SD- The Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association (BH&B) held its 84th Annual Membership Meeting and Tourism Awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. Among the 160-plus attendees were members of the association, association affiliates, dignitaries, and prospective members. At the meeting, BH&B staff presented election results for the Board of Directors, announced industry awards recipients, and discussed marketing impacts alongside new goals for the 2024 fiscal year. Officials from the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) were also in attendance to present updates on the Highway 385 construction project.

"We eagerly anticipate the Annual Meeting each year as it provides us with a valuable opportunity to engage with our membership and the broader visitor industry. During this gathering, we take time to highlight our achievements and progress over the previous fiscal year. Additionally, we conduct the election of our new board members and discuss the strategic initiatives the Association will be dedicated to for the upcoming three to five years. This forum serves as a remarkable platform to disseminate pertinent information to our stakeholders, fostering a sense of pride in an industry that contributes to their well-being and the betterment of our industry,” shared Michelle Thomson, President and CEO of the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association.

2024 Board of Directors 

Kelsey Clark, a representative for Wall Drug Store, was appointed to the 2024 fiscal year Board of Directors Chair position, and Carrie Gerlach, a representative for Black Hills Adventure Tours, was named Vice Chair. The past fiscal year's chair position was served by Toni Woodruff, a representative for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip®. Additionally, Gwyn Wathen, a representative for Recreational Adventures Co.(RAC), was announced as the 2024 fiscal year Treasurer. 

Two members have been elected to fill open seats in two categories for the Board of Directors. The elected attractions category (Category III) member is Presston Gabel, the attraction representative for The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, and the elected at-large (Category IV and V) member is Clint Jones, the attraction representative for Mt. Rushmore and Black Hills Tours. 

Annual Awards Presentations

At its annual awards presentation, BH&B honored outstanding individuals with two prestigious awards: the Tourism Pioneer Award and the Special Achievement Award. The Tourism Pioneer Award, established by BH&B in the year 2000 to celebrate remarkable contributions to the industry, was bestowed upon two deserving recipients. The first recipient, William “Bill” Walsh, received this distinguished recognition for his remarkable contributions to the tourism industry in Deadwood, the Black Hills region, and throughout South Dakota. His instrumental efforts with Deadwood ‘You Bet’ played a pivotal role in the successful effort to reinstate gaming in Deadwood in 1989.

The recipients of the second Tourism Pioneer Award are Janet and Brian Boyer. This exceptional couple was celebrated for their innovative spirit, entrepreneurship, boundless perseverance, and their commitment to giving back to the entire region. Their collective dedication and significant contributions to the industry encompass an array of endeavors, from establishing the first newspaper at Mount Rushmore to successfully launching an ice cream shop, restaurants, and hotels. Their enduring commitment has left an indelible mark on both the tourism landscape and the communities they serve. (Brian received the award posthumously).

The Special Achievement Award, created in 1968 to recognize a person, event, organization, or business that has made a significant impact on the industry was presented to the Custer Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the event, “Custer Gold Discovery Days.” The event celebrated its 100th anniversary in July.

2023 Fiscal Year Updates

Outlined in their annual publication, the Annual Report, BH&B provided a recap for the 2023 fiscal year, which included traveler demographics, the economic impact of tourism, and travel indicators such as tourism spending, hotel occupancy, and the average length of stay. BH&B’s year-round consumer impact is estimated at 40.9 million impressions, 5.1 million engagements, and a $24.2 million return on investments in paid marketing.

In the report, it was noted that the top spender markets in the Black Hills and Badlands region, or traveler origins, stemmed from cities such as Sioux Falls/Mitchell, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Minot/Bismarck, Fargo/Valley City, and Sioux City. The overall estimated visitor spending in the region totaled $1.1 billion, according to statistics measured between January of 2023 to August of 2023, per Travel South Dakota research and reports (sdvisit.com).

The board and member-driven strategic initiatives for the next three to five years of the association include growing member relations, optimizing internal infrastructure, expanding industry advocacy, enhancing marketing impact, facilitating information networks, and cultivating revenue sources.

SDDOT Updates

Officials from the South Dakota Department of Transportation provided updates pertaining to the construction on Highway 385. Phase one construction, taking place from the Pennington-Lawrence County line to Pactola Dam, is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2024. Phase two construction, from Pactola Dam to Calumet Road (near Sheridan Lake), is scheduled to be completed by 2026, with resurfacing of the stretch of road to take place in 2027. More information on this project is available on the SDDOT website.

Networking & Social 

The Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony concluded with a networking social that celebrated, in part, the 30th anniversary of the Vice President of Sales, Leira Janklow, whose career with the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association began in 1993.

The 85th Annual Meeting

The next annual meeting will be held on October 30, 2024, to discuss initiatives and results. Announcements and invitations to the event are posted and sent the month prior.




Media Notes

Link to the 2023 BH&B Annual Report.

Link to high-resolution photos from the Annual Meeting to download. Photos are courtesy of Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association