On the heels of a new report showing record revenue for tourism in South Dakota in the past year, comes word that more and more residents from the Mount Rushmore State are planning to hit the road this summer.

A new poll by AAA Travel shows that nearly one-third of South Dakotans surveyed say they are planning to travel more this summer than in 2021, and that this will be their first significant summer travel since before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

70% of those surveyed say they are planning at least one trip of more than 50 miles from home this summer – with 57% saying they are planning multiple trips.

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Other findings from the survey:

  • Of those South Dakotans traveling, 88% are doing so domestically; 2% are planning international travel, and 11% are planning to travel both domestically and internationally
  • 38% of residents in the state say gas prices were not even a consideration in their travel planning, although 48% say they are taking fewer or shorter trips because of gas prices
  • For those who are staying home or are unsure about their summer travel plans, more than 40% cite gas prices as the biggest factor influencing that decision.

The number of South Dakotans returning to the road isn't that surprising considering that tourism is making a big comeback everywhere.

According to an analysis by Tourism Economics, visitor spending in South Dakota reached a record high of $4.4 billion in 2021, with the majority of visitor activity taking place in Minnehaha, Pennington, Lawrence, Brown, and Custer counties, which combined to make up 68% of all visitor spending last year.

The overall numbers show that every county in South Dakota saw an increase over 2020. The biggest gainers were Todd (44%), Pennington (40%), Meade (39%), Lawrence (37%), and Buffalo (36%) counties.

According to the South Dakota Department of Tourism, 13.5 million people visited the state in 2021, which pumped $345 million in tax revenue and helped support 54,200 tourism-related jobs locally.

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