News Release: Tourism successes, challenges detailed in 2020 annual report

North Dakota’s travel and tourism industry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But as new reports show, North Dakota Tourism’s insightful and timely “follow your curiosity, not the crowds” messaging resonated with potential visitors.

“2020 was a year of disruption and hardship for the travel and tourism industry,” said Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman. “Still, North Dakota has competitive advantages that allowed us to continue drawing visitors throughout the year and inspire future trips.”

North Dakota had 18.7 million visitors in 2020, a 21% decrease. Still, visitor intent stayed steady as future travelers sought out safe, affordable travel destinations.  Visitation to NDtourism.com increased 51% over the previous year and traditional inquiries were up 4%. These findings are detailed in the 2020 North Dakota Tourism Division Annual Report, which is now available.

The report details the Tourism Division’s marketing efforts, including:

  • Campaign adjustments to support North Dakota’s hospitality businesses
  • Cooperative and shoulder season advertising
  • Campaign performance showing digital ads reached 112 million, 109% more than in 2019; television spots had 116 million impressions; and social media click-through rates double the industry average
  • Public relations efforts netted more than 700 media placements with an audience of 1.35 billion
  • Social media videos were viewed 4.6 million times

Promotional efforts directed visitors to the website, which showed:

  • Website traffic was up from all 50 states
  • 92% of website visits were from first time users

Marketing efforts helped North Dakota’s visitor economy fare better than the national average in 2020. Visitors to North Dakota spent $2.1 billion, a decline of 31%. For comparison, on average, visitor spending was down 45% across the country.  Influences, including the March 2020 closure of the U.S.-Canada border, impact travel and the state’s economy. Attractions, such as National Park Service-managed sites and visitor centers, all had visitation decreases. Occupancy rates fell by 29%, impacting lodging tax collections.

Still, North Dakota’s wide-open spaces, and precautions taken by the industry under ND Smart Restart protocols, led to more visitors seeking recreation where social distancing was easily practiced. State Park visitation was up 12% after a surge in summer and fall camping. Game and Fish also saw increased license sales.

See the steps North Dakota Tourism took to help the industry navigate through a difficult 2020 and position itself for a rebound in 2021. Contact North Dakota Tourism at [email protected] to receive your copy of the annual report, or click here to see an online version.