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News for January 20, 2022

North Dakota Tourism Bounces Back Despite Canada Border Closure

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The 20-month U.S.-Canada border shut down for non-essential travel took a bite out of North Dakota’s tourism industry in 2021, yet the overall numbers for the state are looking great.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is set to record its highest number of visitors since 1978, topping the 791,000 who visited until October.

North Dakota state parks had an unbroken record for camping nights, with nearly 95,000 camping nights at campsites and cabins.

“Outdoors this year were huge,” state Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman told a local report.

Complete statistics for the year are not yet out, “but our third-quarter numbers look really strong,” she said.

In 2020, 18.7 million visitors spent $2.1 billion in North Dakota, a 32% drop from the spending in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tourism Economics research shows.

The national park also extended monthly visitation for several months last year,  which included those in the winter months “not traditionally the July and August months that you would think about,” Otte Coleman said.

“That’s kind of exciting, too, because it shows us that our season is lengthening,” she said.

The majority of visitors to the park “expressed an interest in enjoying the beautiful open spaces the North Dakota Badlands have to offer,” Park Deputy Superintendent Maureen McGee-Ballinger said. “Just as Theodore Roosevelt found the Badlands a healing space, so do many of our visitors.

The park, until October, received 48% more visitors than the previous year. However, the park closed for a short period in 2020 due to the pandemic and lack of staff.

Spokesperson Kristin Byram said that the state Parks and Recreation Department is “looking at having another busy season in 2022” with the border reopening to non-essential travel last month.

Purchases and tax-deductible sales for entertainment, arts, recreation, as well as for food and lodging services in the first quarter of 2021, increased by 29%  and 24% in comparison to the same timeframe in 2020, as per the State Tax Office.

Yet, the pandemic caused losses in 2021, in large part due to the U.S.-Canada border closing for more than one year and a half.

The Tourism Division estimates North Dakota has lost around $259 million in Canadian visitor spending because of the closure of the border, as per Otte Coleman.

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