Eyes were opened’ by tourism conference

Kyle Lessman

Kyle Lessman

Eighteen SDSU students and one faculty member recently traveled to Pierre to participate in this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The two-day event, held Jan. 21 and 22, consisted of a number of sessions, presentations and speakers, including an address by Gov. Mike Rounds voicing his continued support and funding of the South Dakota tourism industry.

Bruce Dickinson, assistant professor with the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Hospitality, said that the sessions focused a lot on tourism marketing and how business owners can successfully market their goods and services.

“[The students’] eyes were opened to the vast array of tourism options in the state,” said Dickinson.

The group from SDSU was made up of hotel management majors or minors, as well as students who have just taken hotel management classes as part of their sequence.

Dickinson said that none of the students were required to attend the conference; they did it simply to learn from and make connections with some of the best in the industry.

The conference also served as a sort of “who’s who” of South Dakota tourism. From hotels and wineries to legislators, “Everyone who is anyone with South Dakota tourism was there,” said Dickinson.

This concentration of industry professionals served not only as a wealth of knowledge but also a network of possible employers and mentors for the students participating. As the only group of college students represented, they took full advantage of their access to these professionals, said Jordan Ehrlich, a senior hotel and food service management major.

“For me, being able to network with these professionals was really important,” said Ehrlich. “I handed out a few résumés and made a lot of connections.”

“The students all worked really hard,” said Dickinson. “They were up late socializing and networking with legislators and employers and then were up early the next morning to attend more sessions.”

However, in between meeting state representatives and tourism professionals, a lot of fun and learning also occurred.

“It was more fun than I thought it would be,” said Ehrlich. “I went to work and network and ended up having a good time.”