During this election season, there will be a lot of talk from candidates on how best to create jobs here in South Dakota. But we are all invested in growing our region’s job opportunities, and we all continue to work together so that community members have access to quality jobs.

Travel and tourism is a key partner for this growth. From award-winning restaurants to a wide selection of hotels, a region that harnesses the energy of its landscape and broadens the awareness of the destination reaps tremendous rewards for local communities.

We are no strangers to evangelizing what our region has to offer. It’s our job, we do it every day, and we take it seriously. In fact, right now we are deploying exciting campaigns to attract more visitors — from neighboring states to far-flung countries — so we can help grow our economy.

Today, we are able to dramatically expand marketing efforts to reach international travelers due to a public-private partnership known as Brand USA. Brand USA works with partner convention and visitor bureaus, such as Visit Rapid City, to reach millions of international travelers and market the U.S. as a premier destination.

Congress established Brand USA in 2010 as a result of the U.S’s lost market share with international travelers over the previous years as they chose to spend their time and money in other countries. To reverse this trend, Brand USA would establish for the first time a marketing platform for the country, to showcase communities across the U.S. to engage international travelers.

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For us, we have found this partnership extremely beneficial. In fact, over the last two years we partnered with Brand USA to develop print and digital campaigns targeting global travelers from countries as far away as Germany. Through their platforms, we have a vast array of tools to leverage countless of options to reach our target audiences, such as magazine inserts or video promotion of Rapid City across several international websites.

And it’s not just our region taking advantage of this program. The entire U.S. has reaped enormous benefits as a result of Brand USA. In the last four years, this organization has directly led to an additional 5 million visitors coming to America, leading to $13 billion in direct spending by these visitors. This added visitation equates to over $5 billion in new tax revenues that go to any number of services such as local first responders and schools, sustaining 51,000 travel jobs, on average, annually for our nation.

The results speak for themselves. Thriving regions, such as Rapid City, are fortunate to have partners in the effort to continue to grow our slice of the international traveler market, and we could not be more proud to develop rich and engaging marketing efforts to spotlight all that we have to offer.

We hope Congress and our area lawmakers will continue their support of Brand USA in Washington, so that travel can continue to be a key player in our region’s job growth for years to come.

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Julie Schmitz Jensen is the president and CEO of Visit Rapid City, a non-profit destination marketing organization promoting travel to Rapid City and the Black Hills area.

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