Memorial Day weekend provides the unofficial start of the tourism season, which plays a key role in the state’s economy. While North Dakota may not be first on most destination lists, our popularity has been increasing.
The North Dakota Tourism Division’s latest figures show tourism added $3.1 billion to the state's economy, while a North Dakota State University research team calculated a $5.46 billion contribution, which Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman attributed to some cross-border shopping revenue in the mix. While energy and agriculture remain the leading industries in the state, tourism has a growing impact on our economy.
Coleman describes tourism as having "slow, steady, consistent growth that is contributing to the state's economy." She credits the “Travel Matters” series launched last year as helping to drive tourism. The series provides stories and videos of North Dakotans and the variety of destinations in the state. Of course, tourists don’t just come from out of state. Many North Dakotans like to revisit favorite places in the state and others like to explore areas they haven’t seen.
The tourism division has hired Josh Duhamel, a native of Minot, as the focus of an advertising campaign. The movie and TV actor is a native of Minot and brings firsthand knowledge to his ads. It’s also the North Dakota “nice” of residents that creates a pleasant experience for visitors and spreads the word about the state.
Some of the best places to visit and annual events are enjoying milestones this year. The Maah Daah Hey Trail will mark its 20th anniversary on June 1. The trail winds through the Badlands, with part of it in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Bikers, horseback riders and hikers can enjoy beautiful scenery along with the wildlife. For those who want a taste of the West, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Fort Seward Wagon Train on June 23-30 in Jamestown.
The Mandan Rodeo will celebrate its 140th anniversary on July 2-4. Along with the rodeo there is Art in the Park, the annual parade and other events. This year, on July 6, there will be events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
The International Peace Garden, which straddles the North Dakota-Canada border, provides a unique stop. And as the summer winds down the 50th United Tribes International Powwow in Bismarck offers colorful entertainment along with food. The event is Sept. 6-8. These are just a few places and events to visit this summer.
The state’s tourism staff and budget isn’t large, but they do a good job of promoting the state. As noted earlier, the state’s residents play a key role in promoting the state and the efforts are paying off.