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APR. 30, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 7

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Community helps CVB sell Sioux Falls

By Amy Smolik
For the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

What do the state's largest convention, a photo blogger, a sports tournament and a college theater festival have in common?

They've all utilized the services of the Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau in traveling to Sioux Falls or bringing conventions, meetings and events to the city. Top-notch facilities, collaboration among many organizations and, of course, word-of-mouth also played a role in welcoming more than 1.65 million visitors to the city last year.

Sometimes, bringing groups to Sioux Falls is years in the making, like the 2018 Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic. Sioux Falls had been on the Pheasants Forever radar for some time, but it wasn't until the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center opened that bringing this convention to the city became a possibility, said Lacey Anderson, event coordinator with Pheasants Forever. It was fitting that South Dakota celebrated its 100th year of pheasant hunting the same year as the convention, she said. Anderson credits the entire community for making this year's tradeshow a success, especially the Convention & Visitors Bureau.


"The Convention & Visitors Bureau played a monumental role in this event and their service was exponential. The CVB assisted us in every step of the way. The services provided were site selection and inspections of various hotels and venues, accommodation bids, vendor contacts, sponsor contacts, press and media coverage, event preparations, promotional materials, liaison between our organization and the community."

Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic was the largest convention and trade show ever held in South Dakota – nearly 29,000 people attended. Anderson wasn't worried about that badge of honor – she and her team were confident that Sioux Falls would be able to successfully serve as the host city.

"It's as if this community is truly family. This is not just a friendly welcoming community in the heart of America, this is a team who rallies together on all levels to make their guests feel at home and part of their family," she said. "The hotel staff were incredibly hospitable, the restaurants were top-notch and the local businesses were all eager to pitch in. Honestly, I am anxious to come back with my family for a vacation rather than business next time."

Family vacations are another way the CVB sells the city, using authentic moments from social media influencers to spread the word about Sioux Falls. Minneapolis professional photographer and social media influencer Jill Emmer and her family were invited to spend a long weekend in Sioux Falls in January 2017. The intent was to fill the weekend with adventures and showcase her family's experiences on her blog, Facebook pages and Instagram account, Emmer said.

While in Sioux Falls, Emmer's family took in a Skyforce game, saw a Cirque Du Soleil show and visited many Sioux Falls iconic stops, capturing images of many of those stops and then sharing them on her social media accounts, also using local hashtags like #WeAreHereSF and #hifromSD. Thousands of people viewed her family's experience.

"My family of course loves it when I am hired for tourism jobs like this! We get to experience the best of the city," Emmer said. "We had several experiences that they're still talking about a year later. They absolutely loved the Skyforce game and how intimate it was. We got to sit so close to the players and they got to meet several of the players after the game. They also still talk about the Scheel's store with the Ferris wheel and the butterflies that landed on their heads! I loved the Cirque Du Soleil! What an incredible performance!"

Working with a social media influencer provides a different experience than posted, catalogue-like photos, Emmer said. She and her family have their experiences and she shares them in real-time with her audience – as well as additional photos that can be used in the future. The photos on her accounts drive visitors to her blog to read a more in-depth description of her travels and to see more photos.


"While I am on a tourism trip my audience gets to experience the trip in real time through my Instagram ‘stories.' I also like to use the slide-show carousel feature on my Instagram account to show many highlights of each day. Sometimes I will share 10 photos in one posting!" Emmer said.

With the user name Visit Sioux Falls, social media remains a great way for the CVB to talk about Sioux Falls and its amenities. Through various campaign efforts, the Visit Sioux Falls brand generated more than 87.8 million impressions and drove more than 244,000 clicks to visitsiouxfalls.com through tracked media placements. More than half a million people visited the site in 2017, with more than 86 percent of the visits coming from non-locals.

On visitsiouxfalls.com, the CVB also promotes different options for travelers and meeting planners alike, with everything from building itineraries, things to do, places to stay and eat, and planning resources from the CVB. Data that reports hotel and flight bookings after a targeted consumer sees digital advertising campaigns implemented by the CVB generated $430,199 in hotel revenue.

Traditional media also plays a role in advertising Sioux Falls as a great location for meetings and events. Freelance writer and editor Carolyn Blackburn has worked with the Sioux Falls CVB on a number of stories that have appeared in niche or trade publications.

"I recently learned about the city's built-in amenities, beyond its great hotels and convention center, as I collected info for two themed articles about South Dakota, one highlighting the state's nightlife options for groups, and the other showcasing the state's parks and recreational opportunities," Blackburn said. "I didn't know that Sioux Falls has six craft breweries that groups can visit after a day of meetings, or that the picturesque Falls Park can be used as an off-site event venue for group receptions. But what was most surprising was learning about the 55 pieces of art along downtown's SculptureWalk, which could be used during a fun scavenger hunt or similar outing for groups on a budget."

Groups of all sizes find the itinerary that's "just right" for them, often with the help of the CVB. For the Western State Bank Senior Club in Devils Lake, North Dakota, Cathy Henke planned their 2017 outing to Sioux Falls. After doing some initial research online, she reached out to the CVB for more help. Henke has planned several trips for this group and was impressed with Sioux Falls.

"They did a fantastic job of giving me information about all the attractions you have in Sioux Falls and did an itinerary for me, which really helps with timing," Henke said. "They gave me many suggestions as far as hotels and restaurants and it was my decision to pick the places I wanted. Sioux Falls is a great place to visit – everywhere we went we were treated like kings."

In the case of the 2017 U.S. Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Champions, the CVB was involved in bringing this event to Sioux Falls, from the bidding process all the way through to the organization of the event and hosting. The Dakota Alliance Soccer Club approached the CVB to help with the bidding process, said Director of Coaching Frank Gurnick. This included: securing hotel rooms, working with local authorities to ensure traffic control/emergency services, hospitality for VIPs, press releases/press conferences, and general awareness from all the Sioux Falls partners to ensure that visitors would receive a "Midwest comfortable feel."


Sales & Services

Business Booked in 2017 (through 2025)
Number of Events: 71 (30 New, 41 Repeat)
Projected Attendance: 59,730
Room Nights: 20,230
Estimated Economic Impact: $19.48 million

2017 Convention Calendar
Number of Events: 91 (41 New, 50 Repeat)
Attendance: 72,523
Room Nights: 38,498
Estimated Economic Impact: $29.8 million

2017 Services
Number of Events, Conventions & Tours: 155
Attendance: 319,981
Personnel hours provided: 834.75
Groups utilizing on-site
registration assistance: 42
Average length of convention: 3 days


"The CVB was as invested in the success of this event as we were as the hosts. I felt that they wanted this event to leave a positive impression on all the participants and their fans," Gurnick said. "The members of the CVB team were extremely professional, approachable and equipped to handle any curveballs."

Later this summer, another large group will hold its first convention in South Dakota – the Catholic Daughters of the Americas are expected to bring 800-1,000 members, clergy and guests to Sioux Falls for the 57th Biennial Convention.

This national organization has been planning the convention for the past two years, said National Regent Helene Shepard. The last convention was in Pittsburgh and the next two are in Dallas and Puerto Rico. The group is excited for pre- and post-convention tours, as well as the activities taking place as part of their convention in Sioux Falls.

"Working with the four hotels (Sheraton Sioux Falls, Ramada Hotel & Suites, Holiday Inn & Suites Airport and Best Western PLUS Ramkota Hotel) has been a very positive experience," Shepard said. "They are so willing to work with us, as is the staff from the Convention Center."

Expanded amenities helped to bring another event back to Sioux Falls – the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The Region 5 event will be here in 2019 and 2020.

"Sioux Falls hosted the festival in 2000 and it was the only time the festival had come to South Dakota. At that time there were limited hotels and venues downtown and transportation was an issue," said Jim Wood, Vice Chair of Region 5. "Downtown has grown so much and we can eliminate the transportation issue, so I think the time is right to bring the festival back to South Dakota and to showcase Sioux Falls."


Approximately 1,500 people will attend, which requires more than 400 hotel rooms and Wood has been working with the CVB to secure rooms and meeting space for the festivals.

"We've been working together for two years and I feel that I have only scratched the surface with how essential the CVB will be in this process," Wood said. "I am incredibly proud and excited to show off my home! Not only are there world-class facilities, but the people have been exceptional to work with! This festival will have a large economic impact on the city and I couldn't be more excited to bring amazing artists and world-renowned artists to Sioux Falls. Most of our students think that they have to flock to one of the coasts to succeed in this industry. I was a working artist in Sioux Falls for over 10 years and I think people will be pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant arts community in South Dakota!"

What is tourism's impact? There's the actual spending by tourists, but there's also a downstream effect – those tourism dollars in return purchase goods and services for businesses, such as utilities or materials from wholesalers, and then the wages and salaries of employees in the industry (either directly or indirectly) spend money in the local economy. The city's 1.65 million visitors had an estimated economic impact of $403.5 million in 2017.

For groups like Pheasants Forever, who've hosted conventions and meetings in larger markets like Des Moines, Kansas City or Minneapolis, having advocates and supporters throughout the community left a positive impression long after their 2018 event was over.

"The small-town hospitality is definitely what sets Sioux Falls apart from any other city we have had host our event," Anderson said. "We will be back, Sioux Falls! There is no question about that."


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