The North Dakota Tourism Division uses research to strategically analyze visitor activity, interest, market share, target markets, advertising effectiveness (ROI) and more. Internal efforts are complemented by national and international research provided by the U.S. Travel Association and contracted vendors.
North Dakota had a record-breaking year in 2021 in many areas of tourism. Arrivals to the state, monitored with GPS technology, show that visitation to the state was up 15.2% with increases from 49 states. Tourism Economics reported that visitation to the state rebounded despite the continued pandemic and obstacles for Canadian travelers. Visitors to the state spent $2.61 billion last year, generating $237.9 million in tax revenue for the state and local jurisdictions, according to the data compiled using federal sources like the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
New Fact Sheets Available
Q1 Statewide Tourism Updates
- North Dakota Tourism released results from a recent Stakeholder Survey. Results can be found here.
- Industry Chats were attended by more than 80 partners in January and March.
- January 8-11 Group Travel promoted at American Bus Association and met with 25 operators. Six tours booked for 2023 with estimated impact of $180,000.
- February 14-17 Group Travel promoted at Go West Summit. Met with 38 operators from Germany, Italy, UK, Australia, Belgium, Mexico U.S. and Philippines. Four operators went on to attend International Roundup Pre- and Post-Product Development familiarization tours (FAMs) in May.
- February 25–27 Outdoor Promotions exhibited at the Wisconsin Fishing Expo in Madison. The Devils Lake CVB partnered with North Dakota Tourism to exhibit in the North Dakota booth at the show.
- March 10–13 Outdoor Promotions exhibited at the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis. More than 1,100 people visited the North Dakota booth.
- March 27-April 1 Global Tourism went overseas with the Great American West – France Mission. Delegates representing the Great American West region of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming traveled to Paris and Toulouse for a full week of product trainings, relationship building, development of new leads, and reconnecting.
- Throughout the quarter, Global Tourism met with and trained 22 sales staff members and 11 product development managers, 2 airline meetings and 31 networking event participants for a total of 66 leads.
Q4 Statewide Tourism Updates
- Land border entry reopened on Nov. 8. As a result, Q4 border crossings increased 248% over 2020. However, border crossings remained down 25.5% YOY. A loss of more than 2 million personal vehicle and bus passengers since the start of the pandemic and border closure, equals an approximate loss of $275 million in Canadian visitor spending.
- Arrivalist verified 13,509,091 trips during 2021, this is 14.67% higher than 2020.
- Traditional inquiries fell by 64% primarily due to the success of a Midwest Living contest done last year.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park visitation tracked 43.88% higher YOY. Colder temperatures in November and December meant lower visitation in Q4 YOY.
- Travel counselors at North Dakota Tourism handled 296 online chats during the quarter.
- The annual Tourism Industry Marketing Summit was hosted in Bismarck with more than 100 professionals attending.
- NDtourism.com had 454,459 site visitors during the quarter: a 47.8% increase over Q4 of 2020 and 214.92% higher than Q4 of 2019.
- Global Travel had two Brand USA shows, Travel Week London in person and one-to-one business meetings virtually along with individual tour operator meetings, resulting in 58 total meeting with international tour operators.
- Group Travel had development meetings with 35 tour companies, resulting in 33 scheduled trips for an estimated $320,000+ in visitor spending.
Q3 Statewide Tourism Updates
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park visitation is 51% higher than 2020 and 17% higher than 2019. September saw the highest-ever recreation visits for that month (130,018).
- In Q3, hotel occupancy rose 5% for a YTD percentage of 48.1% and was consistent with occupancy seen in 2017.
- Traditional inquiries were higher in the quarter, buoying requests for information within 2% of 2020.
- Travel counselors at North Dakota Tourism handled 702 online chats during the quarter.
- Website traffic remained at an all-time high, with more than 1.7 million web sessions YTD, a 20% increase over 2020.
- Visitation from Canada was limited to essential traffic only, as the border remained closed to recreational travel.
- Insights from Arrivalist show increased verified trips tied to advertising, with more trips taking place closer to home and with a shorter length of stay in 2021.
- Outdoors promotions included iHeart Media (Fred Show and Jeff Olsen Morning), Western Dakota Regional NBC stations, Flush podcast, and the Bismarck Tribune.
- Group tours brought in nearly $750,000 estimated visitor spending and at least six new tours.
- Global Media Forum and IPW resulted in 46 meetings with international tour providers.
Q2 Statewide Updates
- North Dakota’s hotel occupancy saw continued recovery in Q2, meeting statewide occupancy numbers seen in 2016.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park visitation tracked 78% higher than a year ago with June seeing the park’s highestever recreation visits for that month (150,232).
- North Dakota’s ports-of-entry recorded just 27,330 personal vehicles from Canada through Q2 (YTD), roughly 10% of normal. To date, North Dakota has lost approximately 672,000 trips from Canada.
- Traditional inquiries YOY were 85% of requests seen in 2019, but the addition of Live Chat to NDtourism.com was well received with 654 website chats and 356 SMS chats handled by tourism staff since its May debut.
- Visitor interest, as indicated by website traffic, remained high at 31.58% higher than 2020’s record traffic year.
- 46 international media mentions reached 45 million people for an ad equivalency of $428,780. 2019 Q2 saw 70 mentions reaching 60 million people.
- 10 group tours brought in an estimated $250,000. Q2 of 2019 saw 54 tours with estimated $743,625.
- Total nonresident fishing license sales are down 4.7% YTD compared to the record setting season of 2020, but up 3.5% over 2019 sales. Early nonresident hunting license sales have been lagging behind 2020 with the exception of nonresident whitetail deer archery licenses that are up 161%.
Q1 Statewide Updates
The U.S. Travel Association reports national losses of more than $566.5 billion since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. North Dakota has consistently fared better than the national average, with marketing efforts celebrating wide-open spaces, outdoor and recreational opportunities, safe amenities, Main Streets and road trip itineraries. Still, impacts are significant:
- Travel spending losses of more than $1.3 billion.
- $133 million in lost revenue through federal, state and local taxes.
- Loss of more than 502,000 visitor trips from Canada.
To meet the needs of North Dakota’s travel and tourism providers, Tourism Division staff employed efforts, including:
- Mainstreet Tourism Expansion Grants and Main Street Initiative Vibrancy Grants assisting 12 communities and seven organizations with more than $96K in funds awarded.
- Global and group travel efforts holding more than 150 virtual sales appointments, including tour operators from Midwest Marketplace, American Bus Association, Go West, Brand USA Travel Week 2 and the Great American West Sales Mission.
- PR pitching efforts received 32 national media instances reaching 228 million.
- Traveler itineraries and visitor service resources developed.
- First-ever winter-focused marketing campaign.
2020 Image and Halo Study
The latest image research identifies what motivates travelers to choose North Dakota, the strengths and weaknesses of the state as a travel destination and the overall awareness of the state and its advertising.
North Dakota's Economic Base
Since 1990, researchers at North Dakota State University have been tracking the six primary industries which bring revenue into the state. This document provides the most current estimates of North Dakota's economic base.
North Dakota Tourism tracks visitors and spending trends and reports finding to its partners in several ways, including quarterly visitation statistics and annual report. Click here for the dashboards page. If you are a partner who would like to participate in our statistics program, or would like more information, please contact Penny Blotsky or call (701) 328-7265.
North Dakota Tourism partnered with Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc. (SMARI) to provide awareness of who visits, including basic information relative to visitor demographics, their origin, and extensive details surrounding their visitation. The report also identifies the visitor segments and know how to match the state’s diverse product to these various groups.
A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that visitors to Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2019 spent $46 million in communities near these parks. That spending supported 586 jobs in the surrounding areas.
The parks welcome visitors from across the country and around the world. Click here for the 2019 summary.