Resident Travel Report Released

Posted by: on Jul 21, 2018 in Latest News | No Comments

Contact: Norma Nickerson, director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-2328,; Jeremy Sage, assistant director, 406-243-5552,; Kara Grau or Megan Schultz, 406-243-5685.


Montanan’s DO travel in Montana and spend money


MISSOULA – Montana residents took over 13.5 million day trips and 4 million overnight trips for leisure, business, or other trip types at least 50 miles away from their home in 2017. Their spending on these trips totaled nearly $2.87 billion according to a report from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

Resident day trips represented more than three times the number of overnight trips, and subsequently more total dollars are spent due to day trips ($1.66 billion in day trips; $1.21 billion in overnight trips).

Business day trips and leisure overnight trips by residents have the highest spending of all trip types. Day and overnight business trips contribute $1.36 billion to travel spending. Leisure trips contribute $1.13 billion to the economy while other types of trips such as medical, shopping, and so forth, contribute $374 million.

The highest percent of all travel dollars were expended in Glacier and Southwest Montana travel regions (see map), as they represent 50% of all resident day trip and 48% of all overnight travel dollars.

“What is interesting,” said Norma Nickerson, Director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, “Is that the western part of the state receives the most dollars from residents traveling there, but Yellowstone County captures 13.2 percent of all resident travel spending, the highest of all counties. Billings accounts for 97 percent of the traveler’s dollars in that county.”

Missoula County, with 503,900 overnight trips and $153,976,000 in spending is the next highest recipient county of resident travel dollars, followed by Gallatin and Lewis & Clark Counties.

“Restaurant and bars make up the highest spending category in each county, out spending gasoline and lodging,” said Dr. Nickerson. “Apparently eating out and visiting local breweries is a great excuse to travel at least 50 miles from home.”

Results of the ITRR study show that residents’ county of origin to other counties reflects the Montana population. The most populated counties (Yellowstone, Missoula, Cascade, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark, and Flathead) represent the highest percent of visitation to all other counties.

The report looks in detail at the top six counties where residents spent overnights: Yellowstone, Missoula, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Flathead, and Cascade. If the top outdoor activities from each (scenic driving, day hiking and wildlife watching) are removed, there are interesting differences. Yellowstone and Cascade counties show the highest percent of their visitors enjoy recreational shopping while special dining tops the other four counties. Going to museums landed in the top eight activities for Gallatin County, viewing art exhibits was in the top eight for Lewis and Clark County and motor boating emerged in Flathead County. All six counties also had participation in going to local breweries with Missoula County having the highest percent who indicated a need to taste the local brews.

Total travel industry spending in Montana is $6.23 billion dollars; 54 percent contributed by nonresidents and 46 percent by resident travel within the state. Nonresidents provide the economic impact to the state by bringing in new dollars. Residents provide their impact to counties outside their current residence.

The ITRR study surveyed 10,795 Montanans ages 18 and older who were intercepted at gas stations and rest areas throughout the state during 2017 to assess overall trip types and numbers. An additional survey was completed by 1,341 residents who provided more detail into a specific trip within the past month.

More information on the study is available at  All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at


Guest view: We’re lucky to live in a popular destination for tourists

Posted by: on May 11, 2018 in Latest News | No Comments

Guest view: We’re lucky to live in a popular destination for tourists

May 6-12, 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the 1983 congressional resolution that established National Travel and Tourism Week. This is a week to reflect on the contributions and accomplishments of the travel community and celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being.

In Montana, with successful promotions attracting 12.4 million non-resident visitors, most who arrive during the summer months, it can be easy to get hung up on the inconveniences created with more people on the roads, lined up in stores or in the places we like to eat.

I believe National Travel and Tourism Week is a great time to reflect on the positive impacts the visitor economy brings to Montana.

Tourism fuels Montana’s economy as non-resident visitors spent $3.4 billion in 2017 according to the Institute of Tourism & Recreation Research. Those dollars are spent on guides, outfitters, restaurants, retail, farmer’s markets and hotels that helps Montana’s small businesses and main streets.

Tourism creates jobs, according to ITRR, visitors supported 53,000 jobs with $1.35 billion in salaries directly related to tourism industry jobs. Those dollars that were injected into Montana’s economy from visitors will circulate in our communities many times over.

Tourism lowers the tax burden on all Montanans, in the past seven years over $161 million has been deposited to the state general fund from lodging taxes alone. Tourism lowers taxes $491 for each Montana household.

Tourism improves Montanans access to other places with growing air service that includes new non-stop cities, large aircraft and even new airlines. The foundation for continued expansion of Montana’s economy across many sectors including high tech, healthcare and manufacturing relies on reliable air access. Since 1987 when Montana’s tourism industry began to grow, airline enplanements have more than doubled to nearly 2,000,000 per year.

Tourism supports communities to promote and preserve the qualities that make Montana a great place to live, work and play. Travelers add to the lifestyle many Montanans enjoy by supporting more restaurants, shops and special events. What we enjoy now is far more than what the state’s population could support on its own.

I’m proud to live in a state that is a desirable place for others to visit. I feel lucky about that. Sure, I may wait in line a little longer this summer, but I’m going to thank and welcome that visitor, because they are making Montana better.

Dax Schieffer is director of voices for Montana Tourism.


Agritourism Manual Now Available

Posted by: on Apr 29, 2018 in Latest News | No Comments

AERO is thrilled to announce the release of Montana’s first guide to agritourism, Developing Montana’s Agritourism: A Resource ManualThe Manual was developed by AERO staff with the support of the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, and the Agritourism Working Group of the Montana Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, MSU Extension, Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Food and Ag Development Center Network, and the Montana Farmers Union. The manual is designed to help farmers and ranchers decide whether or not they want to pursue agritourism as an additional product offering within their current operation. We aim to connect farmers and ranchers with basic information on how to start their own agritourism business through the process of building a business plan, listing important contacts and resources, and inspiring them by sharing existing agritourism successes around the state. Check it out here.

Agritourism is young in the state of Montana; practices, policy, definitions, and legal guidelines are in their early stages, and will develop and change as the state explores this unique form of tourism. If you have questions, concerns, comments, success stories or examples, etc., related to the content of this manual, please contact us at

Tourism Grants Announced in 27 Communities

Posted by: on Jan 19, 2018 in Latest News | No Comments

Friday, January 19, 2018



Ronja Abel, Communications Director, Governor’s Office, (406) 444-9725

Marissa Perry, Press Secretary, Governor’s Office, (406) 444-4514
Daniel Iverson, Communications Manager, Department of Commerce, (406) 841-2893


Governor Bullock Announces Grants to Strengthen Tourism in 27 Communities


MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced $750,000 in grants to develop and enhance tourism and recreation in 27 Montana communities across the state. The grant funds will support $1.8 million of investments into infrastructure and marketing projects.


“Visitors from out of state add billions of dollars to Montana’s economy, which directly support our communities, small businesses and people,” said Governor Bullock. “By investing in our tourism and recreation resources, we will maximize our ability to attract and serve the visitors who drive one of Montana’s leading industries.”


The funds are being awarded through the Tourism Grant Program at the Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism and Business Development.


The Tourism Grant Program awards funds to projects that strengthen Montana’s economy through the development and enhancement of the state’s tourism and recreation industry. Eligible projects include arts, culture and heritage preservation; visitor facility upgrades and construction; and niche product development.


Full List of Grant Recipients:

  • Crazy Mountain Museum of Big Timber received $15,500 to move, set up and renovate the historic Fjare Cabin from its current site in Melville to the museum grounds.
  • Jefferson County received $14,984 to create a website to promote tourism and recreation.
  • World Museum of Mining of Butte received $11,560 to preserve the historic St. Helena’s Church by replacing its roof.
  • Blaine County Fair Foundation of Chinook received $22,000 to set up an indoor arena for events and horseback riding year-round.
  • Town of Circle received $14,750 to upgrade Redwater Memorial Park for bicycle tourism with a bench, a shelter wall, playground equipment and additional sand to complete a youth climbing wall area.
  • Cut Bank Area Chamber of Commerce received $4,553 to replace damaged concrete at its visitor information center for accessibility.
  • Southwest Montana Tourism Region of Deer Lodge received $30,450 to purchase, produce content for and place 12 Ultra HD (4K) traveler information displays across the region.
  • Forsyth Chamber of Commerce received $1,300 to update its website content management system to a newer version so the website is easier to update.
  • Missouri River Country Tourism Region of Fort Peck received $28,000 to redesign its website to promote tourism and recreation in northeastern Montana.
  • Yellowstone Forever of Bozeman received $20,000 to restore historical signage at the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner.
  • Central Montana Tourism Region of Great Falls received $17,000 to redesign the Montana Dinosaur Trail website, including mobile optimization.
  • Ravalli County Museum of Hamilton received $20,000 to upgrade lighting and seating on the second floor of the museum, which includes seven galleries of various sizes and the large Courtroom Gallery with a stage.
  • Kalispell Lakers Baseball Association received $8,000 for upgrades to the Griffin Baseball Field in order to host state tournaments.
  • City of Libby received $85,355 for welcome and wayfinding signage.
  • Big Sky Film Institute of Missoula received $7,898 to upgrade the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival website, including mobile optimization.
  • Missoula County received $105,282 to install an elevator in the historic Commercial Building for accessibility, to improve visitors’ access to and experience of Western Montana Fair exhibits and to expand the number of events held in the Commercial Building.
  • Noxon Senior Citizens, Inc. received $9,150 for its Road to the Buffalo interpretive signage project, which marks the historic byway passing through Sanders County with four signs at designated roadside turnouts along Highway 200.
  • Philipsburg Ice Association received $104,511.50 to improve the quality of the ice surface at the Philipsburg Ice Rink and to allow for a longer, more consistent ice skating season.
  • Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary of Red Lodge received $8,155 to replace the aging deck at the entrance of the sanctuary to be more accessible and visitor friendly.
  • Lake County Community Development Corporation of Ronan received $15,000 to restore the Ronan Arch.
  • Daniels County Museum Association of Scobey received $40,000 to build an attractive metal rod fence to replace a post and wire fence on the east side of Pioneer Town, which is the entrance and the side facing Scobey.
  • Carousel Rest Area of Shelby Inc. of Shelby received $33,000 to complete interior work for the carousel house, including insulation, sheet rocking and completion of the restrooms and kitchen area.
  • Stevensville Main Street Association received $9,200 for a three-panel outdoor visitor information kiosk to be constructed and installed adjacent to the Stevensville Main Street Association office and visitor information center.
  • Evelyn Cameron Heritage of Terry received $40,120 to install a heating system and winterize the facility for changing weather conditions.
  • Yellowstone Historic Center of West Yellowstone received $6,150 to purchase five exhibit display tables and to refinish the hardwood floor in the east wing of the museum.
  • Glacier Nordic Club of Whitefish received $51,000 to purchase a groomer to improve the Nordic (cross-country) skiing on the existing and future Big Mountain Nordic ski trails.
  • Whitehall Chamber of Commerce received $5,720.50 for several facility and grounds upgrades.
  • Jefferson Valley Museum of Whitehall received $17,300 to repair and restore two exterior sides of the barn housing the museum.
  • American Legion Post 20 of Dillon received $4,061 for improvements to camping facilities at Wisdom’s American Legion Memorial Park, which is located on the Adventure Cycling TransAmerica bike route.


Learn more at the Tourism Grant Program website.





Marissa Perry

Press Secretary

Governor Steve Bullock

P: 406.444.4514 | E:

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Year in Review for Montana Tourism Industry

Posted by: on Dec 21, 2017 in Latest News, Media, News & Archives | No Comments

Year in Review for Montana Tourism Industry

HELENA, MT – Tourism is a leading industry in Montana and continued its strong economic performance in 2017 supporting over 53,000 jobs.  Tourism provides jobs in lodging, restaurants, retail and many indirect positions supporting real estate, construction, architecture and banking.  Non-resident visitors spent $3.3 billion according to the preliminary traveler expenditure report from Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research (ITRR).

The year started off strong in the winter with the second highest recorded skier visits with 1.5 million skier days, five of Montana’s 14 ski areas attracted record skier visits.  Deep early season snow and increased air service brought more people to the slopes improving Montana’s economy, lodging receipts for the first quarter were at record numbers with 6% increase from the year before based on lodging tax collections.

After the strong winter start an early spring melted valley snow prompting early biking, hiking and fishing opportunities.  National park visitation launched at a record pace in Glacier National Park, with June and July setting new records.  Yellowstone National Park visitation held steady from its record numbers the year before.  One strong performing national park was Little Bighorn Battlefield in eastern Montana with four years of continued growth and a 5% bump from the year before.

By summer temperatures rose and forest fires became an issue that persisted into the fall. ITRR released a report stating that the smoke and fires had a negative impact on tourism spending of $240 million for the year.  Fortunately, many visitors still visited and enjoyed Montana activities.  In response to the communities impacted with the loss of business revenue due to fires, Montana’s Department of Commerce set up an expedited grant and loan program for small tourism businesses.

By autumn, most major Montana airports were announcing increased service with new non-stop cities, new airlines and increasing seats and also important infrastructure investments with terminal upgrades and runway improvements.

“With increasing air service, private industry capital investments and strong statewide and regional marketing programs, Montana has all the ingredients for growth in the visitor economy, said Dax Schieffer, Voices of Montana Tourism Director.  “With these strong fundamentals, I’m very optimistic for the thousands of families and businesses to see continued success in the hospitality sector into 2018.”

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.


Commerce Reports Int’l Visitors Spent $245 Billion in 2016

Posted by: on Aug 14, 2017 in Latest News | No Comments

August 11, 2017 


U.S. Department of Commerce Reports International Visitors to the United States Spent $245 Billion in 2016


WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Commerce today revealed that 75.6 million international visitors came to the United States in 2016 for business, medical, education and leisure purposes. The visitors collectively spent $244.7 billion across the country.

Compared to 2015, visitor arrivals decreased by 2 percent and visitor spending decreased 1 percent. It was the first decline in visitors since 2009. Preliminary data for 2017 indicate an uptick in visitors.

In 2016, travel and tourism was the largest services export for the United States, comprising 33 percent of services exports and 11 percent of exports overall.

China ($33 billion), Mexico ($20.2 billion), India ($13.6 billion), and South Korea ($8.6 billion) all experienced increases in both spending and visitations. China was up 15 percent in the number of arrivals and 9 percent in spending; South Korea was up 12 percent in visitations and 4 percent in spending; Mexico was up 2 percent in visitations and 3 percent in spending; India increased 4 percent in arrivals and 14 percent in spending. The remaining top markets experienced declines.

The National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating international travel and tourism statistics. For more monthly travel and tourism-related trade data dating back to 1999, click here.


Attacks on State Tourism Promotion Don’t Add Up

Posted by: on Jul 28, 2017 in Latest News | No Comments

Attacks On State Tourism Promotion Don’t Add Up

Op-Ed from Roger Dow, President & CEO of U.S. Travel Association

When a state government invests in tourism promotion, it’s a win for economic growth, job creation and tax revenues.  The evidence is simply overwhelming.
Despite these obvious benefits, destination marketers have inexplicably found themselves in the crosshairs of state budget cutters.  Since the beginning of this year, elected officials in at least seven states have proposed slashing or eliminating state tourism promotion budgets. . .

Continue reading full piece here.

Highlighted examples from the article:

  • Every dollar New Mexico invested in its “New Mexico True” campaign generated $7 in tax revenue (not to mention $72 in visitor spending at local businesses.)
  • The “Lake Erie Love” campaign has made the once little-known Lake Erie Shores & Islands one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest-and every dollar invested comes back fourfold in terms of tax revenue.
  • Nashville’s adoption of the “Music City” brand-and its continued investment in travel and tourism, even through the Great Recession-has yielded significant results: developments such as the city’s new Music City Center have helped attract more than $5 billion in visitor spending, directly supporting 58,000 jobs-and drawing in more than $1 billion in new development.

To learn more, check out the Power of Travel Promotion Report



Montana Tourism Numbers Stay Strong

Several metrics show strong industry growth.

  • Glacier National Park sets June visitation record
  • Yellowstone visitation cracks over 800,000 in June, second best on record
  • Montana Hotels reach record sales in 2016 with $730 million, a 6% increase
  • In first 3 months, hotel sales hit another record with a 5% jump

Visitor graph from Institute on Tourism & Recreation Research

Record Number of Americans to Travel this Independence Day

Posted by: on Jun 28, 2017 in Latest News | No Comments

More Americans to Travel this Independence Day than Ever Before

AAA report supports optimism for states like Montana with strong tourism industry

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 22, 2017) – This Independence Day, a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways to honor the red, white and blue. With 1.25 million more travelers than last year, 2017 will be marked as the most traveled Independence Day holiday weekend ever.
“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “A historic 44.2 million Americans will travel to celebrate our nation’s freedom this year, adding to an already bustling summer travel season.”
The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Friday, June 30 to Tues., July 4.
By the Numbers: Independence Day Travel Forecast

  • Overall, 44.2 million travelers are expected to travel this Independence Day, a 2.9 percent increase over 2016.
  • 37.5 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.9 percent over last year.
  • 3.44 million people are taking to the skies this Independence Day, increasing air travel by 4.6 percent over last year.
  • The national average gas price is four cents cheaper than this same time last year and a contributing factor to the increase in travelers on the roads this Independence Day.

Celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week

Posted by: on Apr 28, 2017 in Latest News | No Comments

Celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week May 7-13

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 34th year, it’s the annual salute to travel in America.

This year’s theme shines a spotlight on the power of travel by recognizing the millions of people who keep this industry strong: the Faces of Travel.

This industry supports the livelihood of more than 15 million Americans, whose careers have blossomed.  And it is one place where the right things matter most, – reliability, hustle and attitude.  These are the people who help others connect because hospitality runs in their DNA, fueling the travel industry’s continued success.  These are the jobs and the people we should be celebrating.  There are thousands in Montana who we know who share these attributes in hospitality.

See video and message here

Main Street MT Tourism KIN Presents to Billings Group

Posted by: on Aug 21, 2016 in Latest News, Media, News & Archives | No Comments

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.