BHSU students design, present tourism plan for Hill City

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, December 29, 2014/Categories: 2014

Jamie Wilhelm, business administration-tourism and hospitality major from Hot Springs, provides feedback on a brochure for the Hill City Chamber of Commerce during the Tourism and Planning Development project presentation recently. Students worked together to develop new marketing strategies for Hill City.

Black Hills State University students in Dr. Ignatius Cahyanto's tourism planning and development course worked with the Hill City Chamber this semester to design a five-year strategic plan to foster tourism in Hill City.

Students presented the in-depth plan to Jerry Cole, executive director of the Hill City Chamber of Commerce, as well as BHSU deans, professors and staff at the end of the semester. Cahyanto, assistant professor of tourism and hospitality management, said the project provides an opportunity for students to learn firsthand the intricacy of tourism planning. The group of students, named Pine Tree Consulting, spent the fall semester researching Hill City's current tourism approaches, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses and brainstorming ideas that would boost Hill City's presence in the Black Hills.

"The end product was fantastic," said Cole. "When you bring in new, young blood, it's a fantastic mix, always. Sometimes we put the blinders on and new blood views everything outside of the box so the paradigm shifts, and we appreciate that."  

Students involved in the project were:
  • Maria Mraz, business administration-management major from Dupree
  • Calla Nelson, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Lead
  • Lexi Jones, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Midland
  • Matthew Barker, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Apple Valley, Minn.
  • Bryan Barker, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Apple Valley, Minn.
  • Megan Glassgow, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Ellsworth, Neb.
  • Jamie Wilhem, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Hot Springs
  • Hailey Rae Brown, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Rapid City
  • Allyson Kraemer, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from Rapid City
  • Travis MacKey, business administration-tourism and hospitality management major from De Smet
Students focused on promoting three of Hill City's strengths - culture and heritage, outdoors, and wine and craft beer. These three market niches are already established in the community and provide the best options for growth, students said. The group brainstormed events that fit into these niche markets, including a history scavenger hunt, dinner tour of local restaurants and a public art walk.

The group also identified several challenges Hill City faces, such as budget issues, the seasonality of businesses and website presentation to visitors. Many Hill City businesses close in October and reopen in May. Students suggested that the town support more off-season events, enticing locals or community members from the surrounding area to visit Hill City.

Wilhem suggested Hill City list its own attractions first on the website, making it easier for visitors to find attractions, hotels and restaurants in Hill City. Currently, the website alphabetizes all Black Hills attractions, making it easier for visitors to travel to other communities for meals, lodging and activities. Wilhelm also suggested updating the current tri-fold informational brochure, hiring a tourism intern and broadening the town's social media presence with a unique photo opportunity for visitors to share on sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Cahyanto said he was impressed by the students' final presentation. Cole added that he plans to pursue several of the ideas students suggested.

"This is a massive project for an undergraduate level and the final quality is impressive," Cahyanto said. "I was impressed with students' dedication to the project. They did an excellent job translating the theories we discussed in class into an executable plan."

Wilhelm, who said she had never worked with a group of this size, learned valuable skills to take with her into the professional industry.

"Communication and good attitudes help when working in a group," Wilhelm said.

Cole told students that this project will prepare them greatly in their future careers, as working with a group is inevitable in his line of work.

"Be prepared to do this every year from now on," Cole said. "You will be in groups. Sometimes you will be a leader, sometimes you will be a follower. But you will be in groups and you will have to communicate to get projects done and to further your goals of your organization, your community and yourself."

"I commend all of you on this project," said Dr. Priscilla Romkema, dean of the School of Business and Natural Sciences at BHSU. "This is your life going forward. This is such a real world experience."

This is the third year students have developed a tourism proposal for a South Dakota community. Other projects were designed for Redfield and Belle Fourche.

Cahyanto plans to continue the project in fall 2015. Communities interested in working with the students can email Ignatius.Cahyanto@BHSU.edu.
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