Visit Spearfish celebrates success in 2020 | Local News

SPEARFISH — Since 2009, Visit Spearfish has been marketing and branding the city of Spearfish to tourists and visitors from throughout the country. As travel and tourism took a major dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Visit Spearfish was still able to pull off some impressive victories which were highlighted during its annual meeting and awards presentation.

“One of the major things of note, of course, is that despite the challenges of 2020, we were able to see through local vending that hospitality tax ended up above 2019, which is just absolutely unheard of,” said Mistie Caldwell, executive director of Visit Spearfish.

Caldwell said the city has not seen a dip in hospitality tax since 2015. Instead, that number has incrementally, but steadily increased, with a 2% jump in 2020 to $719,986.22.

Although spending was up in the areas of retail and food and beverages, where hospitality tax is collected, hotel bid fees were down in 2020 by nearly 20%, meaning people were visiting Spearfish, just not staying in Spearfish.

“It was a tough year on our hoteliers,” Caldwell said. “Even though people weren’t able to travel the desire to travel was there.”

Caldwell said increased web traffic and requests for visitor guides to Spearfish were way up in the later half of 2020 as folks began to plan their pandemic break-out vacations for 2021.

“In the fourth quarter of 2020, over the fourth quarter of 2019, we saw an increase in visitor guide requests of over 25%,” she said.

Those folks taking an interest in Spearfish were treated to Caldwell’s marketing team highlighting the wide-open outdoor offerings of Spearfish. From open-air shopping and dining, to adventure destination getaways.

“We were able to do all that while communicating a safe travel message, which was, of course at the center of any of our communications,” she said.

That marketing, along with sponsoring local events that bring people in from all over the country makes up more than 40% of Visit Spearfish’s spending, which has clearly already begun to pay off for the city.

“Hospitality tax in just the month of April, is up 48% (from April 2020),” Caldwell said. “Year-to-year, so going back January through April, we’re up 8% year to date.”

With hotels and campgrounds “busting at the seams,” Caldwell said she’s already seen 36 of the 50 states represented in tourists passing through the Visit Spearfish’s downtown building.

“(Not including 2020) our visitor center traffic is 20% higher than it has been any other year,” she said.

Caldwell said the fact that so many Spearfish events take place outside, and all that the area has to offer for outdoor recreation has been a great help to keeping the flow of visitors to Spearfish strong. However, vaccinated visitors become more common place, allowing for indoor activities to safely start back up, she said she’s equally excited to see the brick-and-mortar businesses in town enjoy the fruits of Visit Spearfish’s marketing efforts.

“It’s going to be fantastic to see the Matthew’s Opera House be able to pull off “Alice in Wonderland” and for the High Plains Western Heritage Center to have their cowboy supper and show,” she said. “I’m very excited for our partners to be able to have those opportunities to come back. We’re really excited to support that.”

Along with highlighting the successes of a very difficult year, and the optimistic outlook for the year to come, two awards were presented during the annual get together.

“Each year (the Tip of the Spear Award) focus on someone or an organization that focuses on building or growing a signature Spearfish event, which of course is good for the economy and it’s helpful to us,” Caldwell explained.

This year, Visit Spearfish recognized Frank Pavich and the Black Hills Nationals AAU World Folkstyle Wrestling Tournament.

“Frank, his wife Kit and Paul Soriano dedicate hundreds of hours to ensuring the wrestlers and their families, as well as the Spearfish community benefit from the toils of all their labors,” Caldwell said. “Thank you to the entire Black Hills Nationals Team for making Spearfish the home for your event.”

The Friend of Spearfish Award is presented to a group or person that plays an integral role in the marketing and promotion of Spearfish as a partner with Visit Spearfish.

“The essence of this award is to recognize businesses or individuals who are the “behind-the-scenes” partners who contribute to the overall success of the organization and its efforts,” Caldwell said.

The 2021 Friend of Spearfish Award was presented to Digital Designs for their creative web design and online advertising which has brought the beauty of Spearfish to the fingertips of America.

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