I have two things that I’d like to share with you this week: a message about South Dakota tourism, and a personal thanks to a dear friend of mine.
1. National Travel and Tourism Week is a time to recognize the important impact tourism has on our state and our nation. This year’s National Travel and Tourism Week theme centers around the “Spirit of Travel.”
Our friends and neighbors in the tourism industry could use support and encouragement. COVID-19 has hit South Dakota tourism hard. In 2019, 14.5 million visitors came to The Mount Rushmore State. They spent 4.1 billion dollars and supported more than 55,000 jobs. Our economy depends on tourism, but those numbers will likely be down for 2020. I cannot stress enough how critical the tourism industry will be in getting our economy back up and running once people feel safe traveling again.
“Great Faces, Great Places” is South Dakota tourism in a nutshell. People choose to make lifelong memories visiting South Dakota’s iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. They also remember the smiling faces of South Dakotans. Let’s take this week to celebrate every great face and great place that makes our state incredible.
Our tourism industry is resilient. If we come together and support each other, the spirit of travel will be back stronger than ever. To all of you who work in the tourism industry, we are praying for you during this difficult time. Thank you for all your work to welcome visitors to South Dakota.
When the time is right to travel again, I encourage South Dakotans to take time to explore your own backyard, travel our great state, make long-lasting memories, and support South Dakota’s tourism industry. Let’s all work to keep the “Spirit of Travel” alive and well.
2. Earlier this week, I accepted Kim Vanneman’s resignation as our State Secretary of Agriculture. I want to thank her for years of service to our state.
Kim has been a longtime friend. She and I have worked on agriculture policy in the state of South Dakota for almost twenty years, and I don’t know of a better advocate for agriculture. She has worked hard to make sure that farmers and ranchers are supported and that we have the ability to pass our operations on to the next generation.
Kim says it’s time to return to her own family’s agriculture operation. While Kim’s title is going to change, she is going to continue to be a valuable adviser to me and an advocate for South Dakota agriculture. I can’t thank her enough for her willingness to come into our administration and lead the Department of Agriculture. She will be missed.
Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden will be filling in as Interim Secretary. He’ll be focused on helping South Dakota agriculture fight this pandemic, particularly by helping livestock producers gain market access and deal with supply chain bottlenecks.
South Dakotans continue to encourage me each and every day. Remember, together, we’ll get through this difficult time.
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