RAPID CITY, SD (4/16/09) – Ask any one who lives in any community in South Dakota and they’ll tell you that come the first of August, their hometown is likely to have as much two-wheeled traffic as four-wheeled. You see them at the local stores, gas stops, motels and eateries. No matter what the location, they bring money into the local economy. And, when it’s all totaled, many feel that the economic impact of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to the State of South Dakota will surprise us all.
With the help of the South Dakota Office of Tourism’s Million Dollar Challenge Program and support from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, several South Dakota private sector businesses, Black Hills area chambers of commerce and local municipalities, an economic impact study on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will become reality. Once the study is completed, organizers intend to utilize the research and data collected to develop an overall strategic marketing plan that will focus on increasing two-wheeled tourism travel throughout the state of South Dakota.
According to Jim Burgess, partner at Black Hills and Sturgis Harley-Davidson, the true economic impact of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has never actually been calculated. “This event (the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally) is without a doubt the largest event in South Dakota – and it spreads throughout the entire state, east to west, north to south,” said Burgess. “We guess at the attendance numbers and we know what kind of revenue goes into the state’s coffers from the sales tax filed by temporary merchants who are here for the Rally, but that’s just a fraction of it.”
Burgess went on to say that revenue from private party Rally home rentals, homes that are sold to individuals who come to the Black Hills for the Rally, businesses that move to South Dakota due to the Rally, along with other examples, make him believe that the economic impact of the Rally reaches far beyond what we currently perceive.
Following this year’s Rally, Burgess began having dialogues with others involved with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and tourism. It become apparent that if the true economic benefits of the Rally could be better established and the characteristics of our Rally visitors identified, it would better position the Black Hills, as well as the State of South Dakota, to market to the thousands of motorcycle tourists who are interested in visiting South Dakota – not only during the Rally – but throughout the summer and early fall months on the Rally’s shoulder seasons.
These discussions lead to the formation of the Motorcycle Tourism Alliance (MTA). MTA is a non-partisan, hybrid marketing alliance developed to identify and implement marketing strategies and associated funding sources in order to leverage the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brand and further cultivate motorcycle tourism in the Black Hills region, as well as throughout the entire State of South Dakota. Among the alliance’s goals are to grow both motorcycle tourism and traditional travel immediately before and immediately following the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, expand Rally-related vendor, attraction, retail and entertainment venue sales, increase the number of hotel/motel room night stays during the Rally, and enhance overall tourism spending and related sales tax revenue statewide.
New South Dakota Motorcycle Tourism Alliance, continued, page 2:
MTA’s mission has been defined through feedback and input from a diverse partnership base including the City of Sturgis, Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce, Sturgis and Black Hills Harley-Davidson, The Legendary Buffalo Chip, J&L Harley-Davidson of Sioux Falls and Watertown, Black Hills Central Reservations/BlackHillsVacations.com, Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, Radisson Hotel, The Lodge at Deadwood, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park, as well as numerous national motorcycle industry corporations.
“While we celebrate the influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, we also know that there is a certain segment of the tourism market that prefers to avoid the Rally timeline,” said Susan Johnson, CEO of Black Hills Central Reservations/BlackHillsVacations.com. “We need to not only market to prospective Rally attendees, but to the traditional four-wheeled traveler as well, telling them when the Rally is over and packaging vacations to encourage their timely return to our area,” Johnson continued.
Alliance partners see the economic impact study as a crucial “first step”.
Over the next few months, MTA will be working in cooperation with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Lawrence & Schiller and Randy Stuefen, Stuefen Research, LLC and Professor Emeritus of University of South Dakota, to develop and implement the study. Once the data from the economic impact study is collected, compiled and analyzed, MTA intends to develop a strategic marketing plan for launch in early 2010, which will include the utilization of social networking sites, email blasts and direct mail communications, as well as cable network programming and other more traditional advertising media.
“We know that South Dakota is a top destination for the tourist market. There is more opportunity for growth, and equally as important, there is room for growth. The Black Hills can accommodate more travelers now than 5 or 10 years ago, and we can market to grow the shoulder seasons of the Rally for both the traditional travelers and the two-wheeled tourists,” commented Ronda Gusinsky, MTA project manager. “And, if we market in the right way, we can not only impact growth, but better manage growth, while taking good care of our visitors at the same time.”
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