Thursday, March 13, 2014

So What's South Dakota's Tourism Industry? Chopped Liver?

      Are the people that run South Dakota's Governor's Office Of Economic Development somewhat uninformed--if not clueless--about developing export markets?  I see yesterday through an announcement from GOED that Governor Daugaard
has selected representatives from eleven South Dakota firms to join him on a trade mission to China, pitching any number of products made in our state for possible direct sales to the People's Republic.  All in all, I can support junkets like this, being a biz type myself who understands the value of promotion and face-to-face encounters with potential customers.  Fact is, you gotta spend money to make money, and if any of these enterprises score some business in China, it'll only add good things to the state's economy.  Scanning the list of attendees on this junket, I think they make a fair representation of South Dakota's ag and manufacturing sectors and I wish all of them well.
     But . . . Nowhere on the list do I see one single representative of South Dakota's second largest industry, tourism, which has the potential of being one of our state's top export markets.. Tourism, by definition, is an export, as it bring foreign currency into our country.  This is what makes me wonder if officials at GOED are clueless.  The Chinese tourist market is immenseA 2012 piece in China Business Review gives a hint of its growing size, noting that by 2020, in North America, travelers from China will rank third in number, after travelers from the United Kingdom and Japan.  The piece also notes that by the 2020s, China's outbound travel market will likely expand to triple the size of Japan’s.  
    This is an appalling oversight, and I think Governor Daugaard owes those of us in the tourism sector of South Dakota's economy an explanation as to why our crucially important component of the state's business community was overlooked when putting this junket together.  Pitching our state to foreign visitors isn't that tough, considering the proven collection of assets that we have here--history, natural beauty, world-class monuments.  Heck, from what I understand, Chinese folks tend to be aggressive gamblers, which would make them a natural target for marketers pushing Deadwood and the state's reservation casinos.  I have no doubt that there are numerous tour operators throughout China who have plenty of experience booking tours to the United States.  A face-to-face visit with them by a knowledgeable promoter of South Dakota tourist destinations would be invaluable.
     As an occasional traveler to Europe I've often encountered sizable groups of Chinese tourists at virtually all the famous destinations.  A few years back while on the Parthenon in Athens, Dawna and I even noted that the Chinese visitors outnumbered Caucasions by a wide margin.  As to the Louvre?  Last time we went, in '05, Chinese tourists were all over  that place.  For a state that seems willing to court Chinese investors into enterprises of dubious value via the EB-5 investment program, I'm quite surprised that the Daugaard administration hasn't figured out that mass marketing in China might produce results that spread money throughout the state, not just in concentrations limited to a relative handful of participants.  This is a bad call by Governor Daugaard, one that I believe he'll come to see as a missed opportunity. 


  1. Good grief. I was born and raised in South Korea. Before arriving here with my family, if I was asked to name the top 5 landmarks in the US, Mount Rushmore along with Yosemite and the White House would have topped the list. Mount Rushmore is the Great Wall of the United States just in terms of name recognition.

    While I knew where Yosemite and the White House are, I had no clue where Mount Rushmore is, and I am willing to bet not even most Americans know it is in the great state of South Dakota. Most foreigners can't name US states after California, New York and Texas. So it would be nice to have some representatives from the tourist industry to tell the Chinese how to get this world class treasure and what to do once they get there for enjoyment.

    So what exactly is the governor going all the way to China to promote? Soybeans?

    1. Thanks, anonymous. Your perspective is invaluable and I appreciate the input.

  2. My experiences traveling in the American Southwest were similar. Utah, Arizona and New Mexico were packed with Asian travelers driving rented RVs. I was astonished at how many there were! The same is true of the Pacific Northwest, even more so. Not all were necessarily tourists there, however. That part of the country has a significant population of Asian descent.

    It is nuts that SD tourism is not a focus of promotion on this junket. Good topic John. Thanks.

    1. This is such a slam dunk that I'm amazed it got overlooked. Thanks for commenting, Deb