Tourism season off to slow start for some

By Leslie Silverman

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With lots of rooms unoccupied rooms, tourists can get great rates by staying in Keystone this summer, according to the most recent Keystone chamber of commerce meeting.

“Every hotel in town is running super rates. I have the lowest rates I  have ever ran. I think most of us do. I think everybody has the lowest rates I’ve seen in Keystone since I’ve been here,”said Tammy Hunsaker of Battle Creek Lodge.

Many Keystone business owners have seen a decrease of 30-40 percent this year and it’s unclear if the numbers are a reflection on Keystone or if the trend is regional as well.

“I went out and made phone calls. I talked to Spearfish. They’re where they were last year or maybe up slightly. Just the handful that I just spoke with they’re doing fine.I just talked to chambers,” said Julie Smoragiewicz of Yak Ridge Cabins.

According to Hill City Chamber of Commerce  executive director Janet Wetovick-Bily there has been “lots of shoulder season traffic” in Hill City and the Hill City Visitor Information center has seen the same number of phone calls as it did this time last year.

And some of the area chain hotels seem to be experiencing an average if not above average year so far.

“We ended the month of May good,” says Tim Johnson owner of Presidential Hospitality, a firm that operates many of the brand name hotels in Keystone and Hill City. “For us to be up the month of May with Memorial Day being a slaughter with weather I’m calling that a major win.”

Poor weather, including a late winter storm, seems to have been a large factor in tourism in the month of May.

“Even if you haven’t made reservations, you haven’t worked out your itinerary, you don’t know where you’re going for dinner that night, you’re not going to a place where the most recent thing you see is there was flooding and streets closed,” said Hunsaker.

The Keystone Chamber of Commerce is trying to figure out contingency plans for making certain that media reports don’t portray the town as “closed” when bad weather strikes.

“We’re still getting calls asking if Keystone’s closed. That has really negatively impacted our town. We shouldn’t be getting phone calls this late after an event asking if we’re closed. The way things went out made it seem worse than it was,”  said Keystone Chamber of Commerce president Ric Greene. “One of the things I was trying to do last week is to let people know Keystone is not closed.”

One idea is to ask businesses to post favorably on social media sites.

“Even if we took every member and scheduled a post for each business. It would be a start,” said Hunsaker.

Smoragiewicz agreed,  saying, “The quickest way would be message to all members, please post something in the next day or two. We’ll be searching member’s websites.“

Other ideas expressed are to temporarily increase the budget for social media marketing, although no action was taken on this matter.

“We’re open for business, to have that on our homepage. I think that will be helpful,” said Keystone chamber member Trevor Bryan.

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