BLACK HILLS, S.D. — Vacant gift shops, closed amusement parks, and empty tourism caves in some parts of the Black Hills – not due to a lack of demand.

Tourism businesses seeking workers, and not drawing many, causing many to cut back services or limit the days they’re open.

“Each year by this time, we usually are wrapping up our hiring process and this year, we still have a ways to go, so it’s definitely been one of the more challenging years,” said Tom Hagen, owner of Rush Mountain Adventure Park.

At the Rush Mountain Adventure Park, they’re usually staffed up and ready for a busy summer. Now, the park is only staffed up and open for about half of the week (for hours, click here.)

Owner Tom Hagen seeing potential customers drive into his amusement park, only to see them turn around.

“It’s not easy to take, cause you know that you’re looking at the revenue that you need driving back off of your property but there’s really nothing that we can do about it,” Hagen said.

But a partnership between the South Dakota Departments of Tourism and Labor and Regulation is looking to bring workers to the region.

A plan to use the state’s job dashboard, that consistently has more than 23,000 jobs.

Tourism Recruiting 10

Governor Kristi Noem, releasing a statement, hoping to shed light a workforce problem impacting South Dakotans, saying:

“We have more job openings than workers to fill them – especially in travel and tourism. This campaign will recruit more workers to our state to support tourism, our second largest industry.”

Other state officials involved in the partnership saying that they’re looking at all age groups to help solve the problem.

“We’re looking at populations, secretary (Jim) has talked about retired folks, if they maybe want to work a little bit, you know, 20 hours this summer and help out at a tourism or hospitality industry,” said Marcia Hultman, the Cabinet Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation.

A partnership, that looks to help key businesses in a key part of the state’s economy, stay afloat.

“I think it’s a great program, I’m excited about it and I think it’s really going to help us,” Hagen said.

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You may want to reconsider any plans to travel abroad.

That’s the recommendation from the U.S. State Department, which updated its Travel Advisories list this week warning Americans against foreign travel to include about 80% of countries worldwide.

Calling the risks the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic poses to travelers as “unprecedented,” the State Department said in an April 19 statement that it “strongly recommends U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad.”

The department said its advisories will now better reflect Travel Health Notices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as taking into account factors such as in-country testing availability and travel restrictions on U.S. citizens.

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“We believe the updated framework will help Americans make better-informed decisions about the safety of international travel,” said a State Department official. “We are closely monitoring health and safety conditions across the globe, and will continue to update our destination-specific information for U.S. travelers as conditions evolve.”

As a result of the update, some 8 out of 10 nations around the globe are classified as “Level 4: Do Not Travel.” More than 100 countries were recategorized Level 4, including popular destinations such as Canada, France, Mexico and the U.K.

The nations not downgraded to Level 4 are largely in East Asia, Oceania and parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

While many countries in the updated list of Level 4 destinations have their own restrictions against travel by foreigners, some do allow entry by air with proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test or other criteria. Americans may travel to Britain, for example, as long as they test negative within 72 hours before arrival; they must also fill out documentation and quarantine for 10 days.

Mexico, meanwhile, permits air arrivals and has no testing requirements although you may be screened or temperature checked at the airport.

The country has remained popular with Americans throughout the pandemic, despite testing or proof of recovery requirements upon return to the U.S.

For example, from the end of 2020 and through February, the Mexican state of Quintana Roo — home to resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum — welcomed nearly 1 million Americans.

The State Department’s advisories system is comprised of four color-coded levels: Level 1 (blue) – Exercise Normal Precautions; Level 2 (yellow) – Exercise Increased Caution; Level 3 (orange) – Reconsider Travel; and Level 4 (red). The latter is reserved for countries with a “greater likelihood of life-threatening risks” and U.S. citizens are advised not to travel there or to leave as soon as it’s safe to.

All international destinations had been labeled Level 4 at the start of the pandemic last March, but the State Department lifted that advisory in August. Not one nation listed, however, is currently rated Level 1.

The latest Travel Advisory levels can be

“This alignment better reflects the current, unpredictable, and ever-evolving threat posed by covid-19,” the department said in an email. “We continue to strongly recommend U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad, and postpone their trips if possible.”

In a media note, the department said the change doesn’t “imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country,” but instead indicates a change in the advisory system to rely more heavily on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The note said that in addition to reflecting the travel health notices put out by the CDC, the advisories also consider “logistical factors” such as the availability of in-country testing and travel restrictions for U.S. citizens.

If travelers decide to go to countries that have a Level 4 advisory, the State Department recommends they read travel information about the dangers of visiting high-risk countries.

The upgraded warnings come as the number of U.S. travelers continues to rise and more countries around the world start to open their borders to Americans. On Monday, Greece started to allow U.S. citizens back with a negative coronavirus test or proof of vaccination. And United Airlines announced new flights to Greece, Iceland and Croatia starting in July.

The CDC said earlier this month that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk. But officials also said they still did not recommend travel because of rising cases in the United States and globally.

On its website, the agency recommends delaying international travel until people are fully vaccinated, but it adds a warning.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread covid-19,” the website says. “However, international travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.”