Black Hills State University tourism students Caryn Hillberg, left, Mali Embree and Shareece Tatum present a five-year sustainable tourism plan for the City of Belle Fourche.
Increased social media, collaboration between various town entities, improved signage, and a consistent brand and logo will help move Belle Fourche forward in the tourism industry and establish it as a destination, according to Black Hills State University tourism students.

The students, who are in Dr. Ignatius Cahyanto’s Tourism Planning and Development class, spent the semester researching and analyzing how to make Belle Fourche a must-see Black Hills attraction. The students presented their five-year sustainable tourism plan earlier this month to Rita Pazour, marketing/communications specialist for the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, Cahyanto’s Tourism Planning and Development class created a five-year plan for the City of Redfield.

“I believe the best way to inspire students is through real life experience,” said Cahyanto, tourism and hospitality management assistant professor. “This experience allows students to relate the course materials to these situations.”

Tourism and hospitality management majors who participated in the project include: Shareece Tatum, Piedmont; Mali Embree, Rapid City; Carley Aaberg, Gillette, Wyo.; Paige Bauerkemper, Chadron, Neb.; Ericka Heltzel-Leveque, Rapid City; Sarah Wilson, Sioux Falls; and Caryn Hillberg, Hartford.

The students identified three main target markets on which Belle Fourche officials should concentrate - visitors interested in the town’s historical aspect, including the Center of the Nation monument; those interested in agriculture and working ranches; and those interested in outdoor recreation such as the popular Orman Dam.

One of the main challenges for Belle Fourche is that it has no direct access to Interstate 90 or an airport, Tatum said. However, with its deep rooted history, strong agricultural base and several popular attractions and events, Belle Fourche can increase the number of people making the town a stop during their travels, she said.

Tatum added that Belle Fourche has great opportunity to grow its tourism base with increased traffic from the oil boom in North Dakota. The key is to get them to stop and spend some time in Belle Fourche. Improved signs along Highway 85 and 212 welcoming visitors would be an inexpensive way to draw visitors in, said Embree.

The students also suggested starting an annual fishing tournament/fish fry event. The competitors would fish at Orman Dam in the day and then return to Center of the Nation Park for a fish fry. “You are making people come back into Belle Fourche, and by the time they are done they are tired and full and have to stay,” Tatum said.

To help fund the increase in advertising and marketing, the town needs to apply for the state Matching Dollar Challenge Grant which will provide matching dollars up to $20,000 for new and/or enhanced marketing initiatives.

“Belle Fourche has a really promising future ahead for the tourism industry,” Tatum said. “We really feel they have markets that aren’t touched heavily in this area, especially the agricultural/ranch. We feel by focusing on the three main markets we talked about and the plan provided that tourism will continue to prosper and actually build a local community and strengthen (the town).”

Pazour said the students did a great job identifying areas Belle Fourche can improve or expand upon. Some of the suggestions have already been talked about in Belle Fourche; however, she said it is nice to have an outside entity reinforcing those ideas.

Pazour hopes to have some of the BHSU students present parts of their plan to the Belle Fourche City Council sometime in the upcoming months.