‘Historic’ Tourist Season Helps Mitchell’s Economy Bounce Back With Sales Tax Spikes
Despite the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic in 2020, Mitchell’s tourism industry has rebounded significantly this year, helping to fuel the rebound in the local economy as a whole. Corn Palace manager Doug Greenway said business was booming all summer long at the city’s biggest tourist attraction, which welcomed around 225,000 visitors from May 31 to September 6, or around 70,000. more than at the same time last year.
“It was only a historic year. The Corn Palace gift shop had a record number of sales, ”said Greenway. The gift shop is owned and operated by the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce. “In 2017, we had 230,000 people over the same period, which I found was the most we’ve seen in many years. We were back near historic numbers this year. Our dealership sales were also excellent.
After the Corn Palace saw a 27% drop in visitor numbers in 2020 from the previous year, Greenway said the historic building is on track to surpass the historically high pre-pandemic annual visitor numbers. From January 1 to September 30, the Corn Palace welcomed just over 325,000 visitors, well above the 272,000 visitors last year.
With three months to the end of 2021, the Corn Palace is 46,000 less than surpassing the most recent pre-pandemic visitor count in 2019, which saw a total of 371,000 visitors.
“I believe we will be well over 400,000 this year. This equates to a lot of people coming to see the attraction and spending money here, ”he said.
The strong tourist season that Mitchell has experienced can also be seen in the increase in sales tax collections during the summer months during the peak tourist season which runs from late May to early September.
For the one-cent sales tax that applies to sales of convenience foods, alcoholic beverages, ticket sales, and accommodation such as hotel stays, the city saw a 22% increase in sales. collections in July compared to the same period last year. Mitchell’s third penny collections in July were $ 479,396, up from $ 392,839 raised in July 2020. 13%, respectively.
While Greenway expected a good rebound from this year’s tourist season, he didn’t expect the number of events going on during the summer to be this high. At the National Pedal Pull tournament which was recently held at Corn Palace, Greenway said he had attracted a record turnout in the history of the event.
“We had 4,200 people who attended the Pedal Pull,” said Greenway, noting that the Corn Palace Festival in late August also saw “good numbers” for concerts and carnival riders.
As for what drove Mitchell’s record year for tourism, Greenway highlighted South Dakota’s minimum COVID-19 restrictions compared to most states. In addition, Greenway said open spaces and less densely populated areas where the state’s tourist attractions are located have also played a role.
According to the US Travel Association’s Economic Impact Report released in July, South Dakota led the nation in travel and tourism recovery, on par with Florida.
“I think people were looking to access open spaces, physically, but also places open to business. It’s no secret that our governor said “South Dakota is open for business,” Greenway said. “People responded to that because they knew South Dakota was a place where they could go and enjoy life and eat out or go to a live concert without so many restrictions. “
Considering that about 70% of the city’s tax revenue comes from sales tax, this helps fund vital city services and operational costs for city divisions such as the Department of Public Safety and the public library.
As Mitchell City Council begins budgeting for working sessions in early October, the city is budgeting $ 755,000 in tax revenue for entertainment, which matches the amount budgeted in the 2022 draft budget, marking a 16% increase from compared to last year’s budget.
Geri Beck, CEO of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, is trying to take advantage of the busy tourist season to help increase the city’s growth.
With the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Mitchell for the Corn Palace experience, Beck and the leaders of MADC and the Chamber of Commerce have developed a way to post job openings inside the Corn Palace with a scannable QR code in the hope of attracting workers to expand. Mitchell and his tax base.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see this for our taxable sales, and it’s generated a lot of interest in our community,” Beck said at a recent Mitchell city council meeting. “With the number of people from across the country who visit the Corn Palace each year, we want to show them that Mitchell is not just a great place to visit, but a great place to work and live. “