Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, discusses the department’s summer bus promotion with the state’s four presidential mascots. The tour will make stops at several major cities across Central United States.

The Department of Tourism’s new promotion has a new retro look reminiscent of the golden age of traveling and family vacations.

The future of the tourism industry in South Dakota is looking optimistic with many new partnerships and branding ideas in the works, according to Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

Hagen and Wanda Goodman, deputy secretary, spent yesterday talking with Black Hills State University students, faculty and staff about past and future efforts to market South Dakota to the rest of the world.  The state tourism leaders met with students and also presented at business and tourism classes.

“Things are looking really, really good for us,” Hagen said. “I’m so optimistic on where tourism is headed.”

Hagen noted that travel and tourism, an integral part of South Dakota’s economy, supported more than 27,000 jobs in 2012 and saved each household nearly $900 in taxes. “That means that 1 out of 11 jobs in South Dakota depends on travel and tourism,” Hagen said.

A recent partnership with an international travel marketing firm has opened the state’s eyes to widening its market, Hagen said. “Our reach is much more national (and international) than it has ever been before.”

Starting next month, the state’s four president mascots (depicting Mt. Rushmore) will go on a bus tour around the central United States as a way promote more visitation to the state. The bus, wrapped in iconic images of around South Dakota, will start at Mount Rushmore and hit several major cities including Fargo, N.D.; Omaha, Neb.; Minneapolis; Milwaukee; and Chicago. The tour will end in Sioux Falls.

“It’s a way to generate interest in South Dakota,” Goodman said.

The mascots have already attracted a lot of attention. They traveled to the Big Apple last year to promote the state’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Both Goodman and Hagen said the state’s partnership with Macy’s is invaluable. South Dakota is one of only two states invited to participate in the annual Thanksgiving parade. The people at Macy’s love South Dakota, Hagen said.

Mount Rushmore is also featured front and center in Macy’s new American Icons summer promotion which includes a two-page spread in the fashion company’s Lookbook that goes out to 33 million people, Hagen said.

The state tourism department has also focused efforts on expanding its international reach. Several Australian travel writers recently spent several weeks exploring the entire state, Hagen said. International visitors are getting tired of the United States coasts and are looking for more of the all-American vacation, he said.  “We are a hot ticket item right now.”

Challenges do come with accommodating international visitors, said Hagen noting that training for the state’s tourism and hospitality businesses has been a topic of discussion. Another challenge faced in attracting more high-end visitors is the lack of four or five star hotels, something that the department of tourism is also working on.

“My goal was to create a larger regional, national and international roadmap for South Dakota,” Hagen said of his appointment as the secretary of tourism two years ago.

South Dakota is becoming a vacation destination not only for regional visitors but for people all over the world, he said.

BHSU offers a business administration major with a specialization in tourism and hospitality and an associate degree in tourism and hospitality.