Hotel occupancy in Deadwood slumps

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The historic frontier town of Deadwood, South Dakota, experienced a 4 per cent year-on-year decline of hotel occupancy rates in August 2016 according to data released Thursday by the Deadwood City Finance Office.

Nestled in the Black Hills in western part of the state, Deadwood has been a significant tourist draw for over a hundred years. As the final resting place of such frontier legends sas William “Wild Bill” Hickock and Martha Jane “Calamity Jane” Canary, the town is a mecca for those interested in the historic Old West.

The town draws visitors on their way to and from other sites in the area, including Mt. Rushmore and Badlands National Park. It is also only thirteen miles from nearby Sturgis, which hosts the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally during the first full week of August each year.

Unsurprisingly, Deadwood’s hotel sector is unusually large for a town of its size. Despite just having 1,270 residents recorded at the latest census, the local tourism website lists thirty hotels in motels in Deadwood itself, plus another fourteen in the surrounding area.

Recent trends have not been favourable, however. At the height of the recent summer tourist season, local hotel residency rates slumped 4.09 per cent to just 69.67 per cent.

Local industry leaders blame the smaller size of the nearby motorcycle rally.

“Given the impact of the smaller Sturgis rally attendance this year and the slower than anticipated tourism season, we were not surprised at the numbers,” the executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association Mike Rodman said. “These numbers were offset by a record attendance for this year’s Kool Deadwood Nites event. August hotel occupancy shows Deadwood hotels had 1,889 less room nights this August than last year.”

Year-on-year occupancy rates for August 2016 were down nationally, but only 0.4%, meaning that Deadwood’s hotel and casino industry had suffered much more than most.

Unsurprisingly as Deadwood’s casino industry is based largely in local hotels, the South Dakota Commission on Gaming reported a 4.70 decline in overall gaming during August. Table play dropped to $7.1 million for the month representing a 10.93 per cent decrease. Slot machine revenues dropped as well, although not nearly as dramatically. Overall one-armed bandit revenue fell 4.25 per cent to $106 million.

Photo by Gorilla Jones, used under Creative Commons license.

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