Hundreds of people gathered in Billings last week to listen, learn and network at the Innovate Montana Symposium that focused on highlighting change and innovation in Montana’s small business climate.
Tourism as a leading industry for Montana is particularly relevant to the discussions as it provides amazing opportunities for small, family businesses. Tourism based business can often have lower barriers to entry relative to other capital reliant industries. A few examples include small business entrepreneurs opening retail shops, restaurants or creating a business around recreation, guiding and outfitting.
Steve Wahrlich, owner of Best Western Plus Clocktower Inn who served on the Main Street Montana Tourism Key Industry Network with 30 other owners and CEO’s was able to present the Final Recommendation Report to an interested audience during the conference.
Wahrlich discussed the four identified challenges for tourism and presented the recommendations to address those challenges. He opened the floor to the group for discussion and ideas, who represented large and small communities from Great Falls and Bozeman to Lewistown and Alder and everywhere in between.
If not familiar with the final report, please take a moment and read it in its entirety as the work of the business leaders in the state was very insightful.
Thursday, August 25, 2016, 7:00 pm
Yellowstone National Park and its partners will host a very special Centennial event to kick off the second century of the National Park Service, highlight the importance of public/private partnerships, and recognize the completion of the Gardiner Gateway Project (Phase One).
The event features a talented line-up of performers: Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Leyla McCalla, the children’s chorus The Singing Angels from Cleveland, Ohio, and Teddy Roosevelt reenactor, Joe Wiegand, with more performers and details to be announced in the coming months. Local, state, and national dignitaries will also speak at the event.
Advance Tickets Required
Tickets are free, but limited. The first ticket release will be on Sunday, May 15 at noon MT via Ticket River. Additional ticket releases will occur on June 15 and July 15. We recommend that people secure lodging before getting a ticket because lodging is limited in Yellowstone and in nearby communities.
Can’t attend in person?
You can still join this historic event by watching online. Information about how to watch at home or on your mobile device will be provided here once details are finalized. We’ll also promote any public gatherings in the region that will be broadcasting the event live.
For the safety and comfort of all attendees, no alcohol, coolers, umbrellas, or dogs will be allowed at this event. Qualified service animals are welcome; however, they must be leashed and under control at all times.
Butte America hosted the summer Tourism Advisory Council meeting June 6 and 7 at the historic Finlen Hotel. Tourism and marketing leaders from across the state shared their vision and plans to attract new visitors to their area to be approved by the governor appointed board.
The Tourism Advisory Council is mandated in Montana statute to ensure that at least 12 members from the private sector travel industry and representative from Indian tribal governments oversee distribution of funds to regional nonprofit tourism corporations and to nonprofit convention and visitors bureaus. Montana has 6 Regions and 18 CVB’s. (See map below)
TAC also is charged to advise the department of commerce relative to tourism promotion and advise the governor on significant matters relative to Montana’s travel industry. Other important functions involve approving travel research programs, promote public history museums and determine allowable expenses to be covered by state bed tax collections.
HELENA, MT – Voices of Montana Tourism joins the country in celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week, originally formed and recognized by a congressional resolution in 1983. Now in its 33rd year, it’s the annual salute to travel in America. Travel is a job creator, economic engine and educator. It is pro-family and pro-health and is a leading industry that works for America.
Nationwide, travel generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy. The travel industry directly generated $147.9 billion in tax revenue for local, state and federal governments. In 2015, each U.S. household would pay $1,187 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the travel according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Closer to home in Montana, non-resident travel generated $3.66 billion in spending generating $200 million in state and local taxes. Each Montana household would pay $511 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the travel industry according to the data generated and analyzed by the Institute of Tourism & Recreation Research with the University of Montana. After factoring indirect activity related to tourism, the total economic impact is $5.15 billion. This data does not include the in-state travel and spending by Montana residents which fuels the travel economy even more.
“The numbers really tell a compelling story for the success of tourism in Montana,” said Racene Friede, Voices of MT Tourism Chair and Executive Director of Glacier Country. “National Travel & Tourism Week is a timely moment to reflect on the power of this industry for Montana families as we approach the summer season.”
Montana is uniquely qualified to benefit from travel and tourism hosting two iconic national parks with Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. In the recently published 2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report provided by the National Park Service, the entire system received over 307.2 million recreation visits with a $169 billion spend in local gateway regions producing 295,000 jobs.
When looking at Montana, Yellowstone National Park received over 4 million visitors generating nearly $500 million in spending and Glacier National Park saw 2.36 million visitors that contributed nearly $200 million to the local economy.
“Research has shown that 7 out of 10 first time visitors come to Montana to visit a National Park,” said Dax Schieffer, Voices of MT Tourism Director. “However 86% of those who visit once will return for an opportunity to explore all the amazing sights and less traveled areas the state has to offer, fueling the economic engine that is tourism for all of Montana.”
Voices of Montana Tourism serves as a united voice for Montana’s tourism stakeholders. Since its creation in 2011, Voices has led the effort with education and outreach to communicate the immense value a sustainably-grown tourism industry provides for all Montanans.
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Media Contact – 406-539-1026
HELENA, MT – Voices of Montana Tourism announces Dax Schieffer as the new director to lead the organization as the united voice for Montana’s tourism stakeholders. Schieffer joins Voices following an 18-year career at Big Sky Resort located in Southwest Montana.
“I’m really excited to work with the Voices tourism partners as we tell the story on the benefits that tourism has for the economy of Montana,” said Schieffer. “My work at Big Sky has shown me first hand on how powerful this industry can be for thousands of Montanans and their families who benefit from a strong tourism industry. I needn’t look any further than my own family who can call Montana home because of the careers that exist in the travel industry.”
Schieffer will take over the organization following Mike Garcia, who successfully brought the organization forward in critical policy discussions and in establishing a wide financial base.
“Voices will continue to evolve and adjust to the changing needs and opportunities as travel in Montana enjoys unprecedented growth,” said Racene Friede, Voices of Montana Tourism Chair. “We are so appreciative of Mike’s efforts to the organization and look forward to Dax’s skills to lead a well-organized group in educating audiences of the immense value that the tourism industry provides.”
Tourism is one of Montana’s leading industries with over 11 million visitors in 2014 and supporting over 38,000 jobs. Total non-resident spending is expected to surpass $4 billion in 2015.
Schieffer had an early start in the hospitality industry growing up in Sidney, Montana and working for a family run restaurant throughout high school. After graduating from Montana State University-Bozeman, he was able to stay in Montana with a job offer at Big Sky Resort in lodging operations. He then was promoted to supervisor in accounting, followed by 10 years serving in marketing as the resort spokesperson and special events manager. For the past five years Dax has served on the executive leadership team as the Director of Human Resources.
Schieffer is involved in the community as Vice Chair of the Friends Board of Montana PBS and serves as the Chair of the MSU Exponent Publications Board. He is a 2009 graduate of Leadership Montana.
“I’m very proud of my family’s connection to the state of Montana and truly believe that the most sustainable industry for economic growth is the opportunity to attract visitors to our great state for vacations,” said Schieffer. “We can all work together as hotels, restaurants, retail, recreation and transportation to really maximize Montana’s amazing resources to its full potential.”
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4th of July should be big weekend for Montana tourism
HELENA, MT – Nearly 42 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day weekend, July 1-5. That’s the most since 2007.
This according to the latest news from AAA which attributes the increase to rising income, driven by a strong employment market and gas prices that remain well below those a year ago.
“This Independence Day, more Alaskans, Montanans and Wyomingians will get in their cars, board airplanes, and take buses, trains and cruise ships to celebrate our nation’s freedom with friends and family,” said Anna O’Donnell, AAA MountainWest spokesperson. With most students out of school, this is an ideal time for a family vacation as well, O’Donnell said.
According to the May 2015 reports from the National Park Service, recreational visitors for the year to date to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone are up by 29% and 24%, respectively.
“The recent mild winter and early spring definitely gave our traditional tourism season a jump start before the Memorial Day weekend,” said Mike Garcia, director of Voices of Montana Tourism, a non-profit group that champions the broad economic benefits tourism provides to Montana. “We anticipate this early success will lead to 2015 being a very impressive year for tourism.”
Nearly 11 million non-residents spent $3.9 billion in Montana in 2014, according to the latest report from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.
“Since 2010, non-resident spending has increased by over 59% but total annual visitors increased by less than 5% in the same period,” Garcia said. “This is by far the strongest indication that the state’s promotion efforts have been successful in growing tourism sustainably.”
The shrinking growth in accommodations spending, however, could have an impact on how successful future years could be for tourism in Montana.
“Annual spending on hotels & motels have remained relatively flat in recent years at about 10% of total non-resident expenditures,” Garcia said. “In 2014, it fell to 9.97% and spending for groceries & snacks grew to 9.03% of total spending. We may very well see expenditures for groceries exceed hotels & motels as the #4 non-resident expenditure in 2015.”
This, of course, will be great news for grocers and food distributors in Montana but may be an indication of our state’s weakening ability to generate enough promotion dollars solely from lodging taxes to remain competitive in an improving economy, Garcia said.
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The Department of Commerce recently released an economic impact study on the state of the film industry in Montana. Some of the report’s key findings:
1. In just six short years since the Montana Film Office committed to marketing Montana as a production-friendly, business savvy shooting location more than $103 million dollars in production expenditures and tourism revenue have been placed in state coffers and, more importantly, communities around the state.
2. With an ROI of over $89 brought to the state for every $1 spent marketing the state to the new media industries, Montana’s cachet as a desirable, on-location production center is evident.
3. Montana is quickly being left out of key production conversations because of its out-of-date approach to business, specifically film production incentives.
4. Larger budget productions continue to take their job hours and dollars to states offering incentives in excess of 20-25%.
5. It’s time that Montana stop accepting its current place on the sidelines of production and stand, once again, as a giant among states in both production possibility and business savvy.
Check out the latest fact sheets for media and industry leaders on the right side of our Media Room webpage: http://www.voicesoftourism.com/category/blog/
Wondering how non-resident tourism to Montana performed in 2014? The preliminary report suggests we did very well!! Here’s a snapshot: Montana Tourism by the Numbers for 2014 (preliminary).
See the official press release, “UM Researchers Measure 2014 as Strong Year for Montana Tourism”at http://bit.ly/13XiJmu.
Last year was another strong one for tourism in Montana according to preliminary 2014 numbers gathered by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. Nearly 11 million nonresidents visited Montana and spent more than $3.9 billion in the Treasure State in 2014. Other highlights from the report include:
– Non-resident spending grew 4% in the 1st quarter, 20% in the 2nd, and 9% in the 3rd
– hotel rooms sold were up 6% through November
– skier visits showed a 6% increase over the 2012-13 season
– national parks in Montana experienced an 8% increase over 2013
– airplane deboardings in Montana were up nearly 18% through November
See the official press release, “UM Researchers Measure 2014 as Strong Year for Montana Tourism” at http://bit.ly/13XiJmu.
Download the preliminary report, “Preliminary 2014 Montana Nonresident Traveler Expenditures and Economic Contribution” at http://ow.ly/Hby5Q.