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Tourism businesses look forward with renewed hope for 2021

January 18, 2021 GMT

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Many thought one of South Dakota’s top industries would take a huge hit in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, tourism officials it wasn’t as bad as some other states because of South Dakota’s many outdoor opportunities. From hiking in the Black Hills to driving through the Badlands, South Dakota’s outdoor venues attracted tourists in 2020 and the state tourism board thinks 2021 will be the same.

“There’s so many contingencies and we certainly hope that we’ll be back to more of a sense of normalcy with this COVID things,” said John Brockelsby, a member of the state tourism board. “But you know, people they really do want to travel and South Dakota, the whole state, and the Black Hills are certainly wonderful places because there’s so much to do outside.”

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From the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills to the glacial lakes and prairies in the northeast, South Dakota has plenty of social distancing opportunities, tourism officials said.

Hospitality businesses and organizations across the state are looking forward to a new year and a vaccine for a fresh start in 2021, KOTA-TV reports.

Brockelsby, whose family started one of Rapid City’s tourist attractions, Reptile Gardens, said he and the staff at the unique zoo are ready to bring back the things people know and love about the park — things missing in 2020. He says they are hoping to have their snake show again and have opportunities to pet a python and baby alligator.

South Dakota is fairing better than several other states, including states like Minnesota and Wisconsin where travel spending is down by nearly 50%. Officials credit that to marketing strategies to attract visitors to the “open state” during the pandemic, filled with national and state parks to explore.