- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The impact of tourism on South Dakota’s economy increased by 2.8 percent last year despite spring and fall blizzards and a federal government shutdown that closed Mount Rushmore National Memorial for about two weeks, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday.

Businesses that cater to tourists reported a 3 percent increase in visitors as tourism’s economic impact rose to an estimated nearly $2 billion in 2013, Daugaard said.

The governor said last year’s tourism season started with a cold, wet spring that included an ice storm in eastern South Dakota. Then the western part of the state was hit by an early blizzard that shut down travel in early October and caused many tour buses to cancel trips, and the federal government shutdown closed national parks and national forest facilities, he said.

“Our tourism industry had a little bit of a challenge over the course of the year. Despite that, the numbers were good,” Daugaard said.

The economic impact of nearly $2 billion includes direct spending by visitors, spending by companies that supply tourism businesses, government spending on promotions and private investment in facilities.

Daugaard said tourism generated $295 million in state and local taxes last year. It also supported 28,000 jobs, or about one of every 11 jobs in the state, he said.

State Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen said the increase in tourism is partly due to the state’s marketing campaign in nearby states. South Dakota also is attracting more visitors from other nations, including China, he said.

Information centers at interstate highway rest stops reported tour bus visits were up by 9 percent last year, while tour buses carrying foreign visitors were up 38 percent.

Daugaard said South Dakota attracts visitors because it offers attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park in the Black Hills and the mountain carving of 19th century Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse.

The study of tourism’s economic impact was done by IHS Global Insight, which also does forecasting to help the state craft its annual budget. The report was based on actual spending from January through October, with estimates for tourist spending in November and December.

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