Northern Hills (South Dakota) is at the peak of tourist season, so local businesses are usually at their busiest time of the year. This is true in the case of Spearfish Recreation Center and the Spearfish City Campground, but it is significantly slower compared to the last two years.
As per a report, Tyler Ehnes, Parks and Recreation director for the city, explained to city council members on Tuesday that both entities are seeing substantially fewer visitors than in the past two years.
“I have the campground staff ask when we get a cancelation and (the people who call to cancel) say ‘gas prices,'” he said. “Gas prices prevent them from coming. They don’t have a lot of discretionary spending.”
Ehnes said that despite a decline from 2020 and 2021, compared to 2018 and 2019, visits to both locations were up “quite a bit from those years.”
“The campground is down about 20%. For the rec center, I don’t have a percentage yet. As of (Monday) the Fourth of July, we actually sent lifeguards and front desk (staff) home,” Ehnes told council members.
“If that is indicative of our tourist season, we’re going to be really down on tourists. We’ve been slow all summer.”
Ehnes stated that, according to what the staff can tell, most of the people who use the recreation center and the water park are locals.
City administrator Steve McFarland said sales tax revenue through the end of April was up by 8%. McFarland said he does not know why campground and rec center attendance is significantly down from 2021, yet sales tax is up.
Mistie Caldwell, executive director of Visit Spearfish, said hospitality tax is up 18% through May.
She also mentioned that from June, the number of visitors who visit the organization’s visitor center has been up by 5%. However, these figures decreased substantially in July.
Caldwell said she recently returned from a South Dakota Tourism Advisory Council meeting and noted that numerous communities reported double-digit visitor drops.