Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18, (Spring 2008):81-92. © 2008 Copyright by the Center for Greot Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Rural communities increasingly are looking to the tourism sector as a source of economic growth. Southwestern North Dakota has experienced substantial out-migration and population loss, resulting in designation of the eight-county area as a Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) zone in 1995. The purpose of this study was to (1) identify opportunities for expanding the region's tourism sector, (2) identify challenges and obstacles facing tourism businesses, and (3) frame key issues and outline potential options for area decision makers. Information was gathered from (1) a survey of the region's tourism businesses, (2) focus-group interviews with tourism business operators, and (3) personal interviews with community and business leaders. The findings provide insight into the basic characteristics of the tourism businesses, identify some of the key constraints to expansion and development, and identify sector participants' perceptions of opportunities for growth, thus providing direction for future research and policy initiatives.