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The Black Hills and Badlands region saw the most visitor spending in 2018, according to a new report from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

PIERRE | The Black Hills and Badlands region saw the most visitor spending in 2018, while the southeastern region saw the largest amount of growth in spending from the year prior, according to a new report from the state Department of Tourism.

State Department of Tourism Secretary James Hagen said Thursday in a news release the report showed "strong numbers" that "prove once again that tourism is an incredibly important part of the South Dakota economy."

“The impact these visitors have on communities across our state is significant," he said. "These visitors support restaurants, marinas, hotels and attractions in communities large and small."

According to the report, tourists spent nearly $1.6 billion on lodging, food, recreation and transportation in the Black Hills and Badlands region in 2018, up 2 percent from the previous year. Visitor spending in the region contributed to 39.2 percent of the state's total $4 billion in 2018 industry sales — the largest contributor of four regions.

Within the Black Hills and Badlands region, 80 percent of visitor spending occurs within Lawrence and Pennington counties. Nearly 20 percent of all statewide tourism dollars were spent in Pennington County alone.

Not far behind was the southeastern region with $1.5 billion in visitor spending, or 38.3 percent of the statewide industry. The southeastern region saw the most significant amount of growth in 2018, with visitor spending up 3.6 percent from 2017.

Within that region, 73 percent of visitor spending occurs within Minnehaha County where Sioux Falls is located. Minnehaha County accounts for 28 percent of all statewide tourism income.

Nearly 15 percent of the state's tourism income was attributed to the Glacial Lakes and Prairies region, where visitors spent $591 million in 2018, up 1.4 percent from 2017. Nearly two-thirds of visitor spending in the region occurred in Brown, Brookings and Codington counties.

The Missouri River region saw approximately $306 million in tourism spending, up 1.9 percent from 2017 and making up 7.7 percent of the statewide industry in 2018. Nearly 26 percent of visitor spending in the region was attributed to Hughes County, where the capital city of Pierre is located. Of the state's total tourism income, Hughes County accounted for less than 2 percent.

Tourism is the state's second-largest industry behind agriculture and brought in nearly $4 billion in visitor spending and $2.7 billion in GDP. Nearly $300 million in state and local tax revenue in 2018 was a result of tourism spending, and the industry grew statewide for the ninth straight year in 2018.

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