Thursday, June 27, 2024 - 11:10 am

The travel and tourism economy in North Dakota surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, according to a new report released by the North Dakota Department of Commerce. 

The number of visitors to North Dakota increased by 1.3 million travelers, reaching a total of 25.6 million visitors in 2023. Those visitors spent more than $3.3 billion in the state in lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreation and transportation. 

“When we released our annual report this spring, we knew that 2023 had been a strong year for travel in North Dakota. This study now confirms it was the most visited year to date. The travel and tourism economy in North Dakota is still so young compared to other destinations, and with the development on the horizon and the visitor interest in North Dakota, the growth potential for our economy is huge,” said Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman. 

The Commerce Tourism and Marketing Division worked with national vendor, Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company, to monitor the state’s visitor economy. Results are used to carefully monitor industry progress, successes and future needs. The economic report, including county-level data, is now available. 

Key findings include: 

  • Visitation grew 5.3%, or 1.3 million travelers, reaching 25.6 million visitors in 2023.   
  • Visitor spending grew to $3.3 billion, an 8.8% average growth across all counties.   
  • Day travel growth continued to outperform overnight stays, with 17.8 million visitors making day-trips to the state.   
  • Cass County continued to lead the state in visitor spending, at almost double the revenue of second-most visited, Burleigh.   
  • The hospitality industry was one of the most impacted by closures during the pandemic. Employment in the industry is still below 2019 levels.   
  • Visitors paid more than $307 million in local and state taxes, creating a $960 per household savings for North Dakotans.   

The 2023 Annual Report highlights additional visitation performance, advertising and promotional impacts. 

The only area of travel that hasn’t fully rebounded to pre-pandemic levels is Canadian visitation. While visits have steadily increased since the border reopened to recreational travel in late 2020, visitation is still only 80% of 2019 numbers. “We believe the exchange rate and inflation has a lot to do with this slower recovery,” Otte Coleman explained. 

Visitation and visitor-interest remains high. Through the first five months of the year, there has been a 1.1% increase in trips and North Dakota has outperformed the U.S. in hotel occupancy and revenue growth. Website traffic to is 48% higher than a year ago. 

Otte Coleman also points out the opportunity for tourism to influence the state’s workforce recruitment. “We know that nearly 80% of new residents are visiting the state before they move here. The amenities we enjoy as residents are the same ones that visitors enjoy. The synergy between tourism and recruitment to our communities and employers is high, and we’re blending a lot of our marketing as a result,” she said. 

Tourism Economics works with hundreds of national and international tourism offices to assess economic impact through a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), known as the global standard for measuring the economic value of tourism. North Dakota’s Department of Commerce has worked with Tourism Economics since 2015.  

To see the comprehensive reports on North Dakota Tourism’s economic impact, go to