Montana Access by Air

Posted by: on May 14, 2020 in Media, News & Archives, Upcoming Events | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 406-539-1026 – dax

Flying in and out of Montana easier than ever
New airlines, new routes and more seats increase enplanements 32% in five years

HELENA, MT – Air access to major markets is a critical factor for economic development and Montana has added over 500,000 enplanements in five years with a record 2.2 million passengers in 2018. This growth supports nearly every sector of Montana’s economy with tourism, gas and oil, new business development and technology company growth. More convenient flights also improve access and lower costs for Montanans who travel for leisure or business.

Remarkably, this growth in air access is taking place in one of the most remote areas in the contiguous United States. Geographically, Montana is the furthest area from major urban markets. This distance increases costs in fuel to travel longer and adds time to flights limiting efficiency for airlines to maximize trips in a day per plane, creating a strategic disadvantage relative to other remote airports competing for new service.

Several ingredients contribute to attracting new airlines and encouraging existing airlines to add routes to new cities and increasing seats per plane. The first component starts with effective promotions to put Montana at the top of desirable destinations to visit for potential travelers. Second, airlines like to minimize risk and are attracted when communities can form public/private partnerships to provide revenue guarantees to develop new travel markets. The added bonus for these arrangements can be targeted marketing campaigns in those new markets that supports the first need.

Expenses are a major factor for airlines consideration and Montana airports have kept airline costs low to incentivize airlines to maintain and consider new service. Airports can keep airline costs low with on time arrivals and departures with adequate gate and luggage systems and modern air traffic control technologies. Another incentive includes a $.02 rebate applied to the $.04 aviation fuel tax that helps when airlines consider market opportunities for limited resources throughout the nation. Without these incentives, other states may become more attractive than Montana for new service.

“While Montana has a lot of momentum in growing air access, it’s important to recognize success is not by accident and we are always competing with other markets in the country when trying to negotiate with airlines,” said Dax Schieffer, Voices of Montana Tourism Director. “A downturn in capacity of seats in and out of Montana would not only make travel less convenient, it could also increase costs for Montanans to fly as less competition would predictably raise fares. It was recently reported that when American Airlines entered the Missoula market, travelers saved $2.8 million in fares in the third quarter of 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.

Preserving Our Treasures

Posted by: on Nov 17, 2019 in Media, News & Archives | No Comments
Preserving Our Treasures

Montana Strengthens Tourism Industry

Posted by: on May 1, 2019 in Latest News | No Comments

May 1, 2019



406-539-1026 –

Montana Strengthens Its Tourism Economy

HELENA, MT – Tourism, a leading industry in Montana, does not grow by accident.  Over time, as Montana’s economy has diversified to support a growing visitor economy, several critical milestones were first achieved.  In 1987, Montana implemented a 4% lodging tax with proceeds statutorily directed to marketing promotion at the state, regional and local level along with supporting tourism assets such as Montana State Parks and the Historical Society.

In 2003 an additional 3% bed sales tax was created to support general fund operations for Montana.  This spring, another milestone was met when the legislature passed SB 338 to increase the 3% tax to 4%.  The funds generated from this additional 1% will be used to establish a grants program to enhance rural museums and historic sites across the state as well as providing funds to invest in Montana’s Heritage Center Museum in the Capital City. In turn, after five years when the Heritage Center renovation is complete, funds will further support important areas such as marketing promotion at the state, regional and local level and Montana State Parks.

According to the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research, in 2018 12.2 million non-resident visitors spent $3.7 billion in Montana.  Those dollars then circulate through main street businesses and support wages for nearly 60,000 jobs.

Research shows that many travelers are shifting behaviors to focus more on experiences and connections to place vs. material goods in retail.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines cultural heritage tourism as traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.

Many states have taken advantage of the upward traveler trends in heritage tourism as visitors tend to stay longer and spend more money per day.  Montana is rich in history with a wide range of stories from dinosaurs, tribal experiences to gold rushes and Copper Kings.  These stories can be enhanced by the Montana Historical Society and its member communities across the state with this additional support.

Not only are there significant economic benefits from this segment of the visitor economy, but heritage tourism also strengthens engagement and can be a differentiating factor unique to Montana and not available with other vacations.  The heritage traveler enjoys learning new things which they then will value and will want to care for it.  Generally speaking, when travelers connect to an area, they are also more apt to speak positively of the experience to friends and family generating future visitors.

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.


Non-Resident Visitors Spent $3.7 Billion in 2018

Posted by: on Apr 24, 2019 in Latest News | No Comments

UM Report: Visitors Spent $3.7B in Montana Last Year

Full report:

MISSOULA – Last year, 12.4 million out-of-state visitors contributed over $3.7 billion in travel spending to Montana’s economy, according to a recent report from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

The latest report finalizes preliminary estimates from January with new fourth-quarter tourism data. The new data showed that Montana tourism in the summer months generated more than half of the year’s tourism dollars. Forty-six percent, or 5.7 million visitors, traveled to Montana in the third quarter of the year, July through September, and spent 52% of the $3.7 billion. Travel groups spent an average of $156 per day, for a total of $1.9 billion during the summer months.

During the first and second quarters of 2018, traveler groups spent an average of $161 and $135 per day, respectively, totaling $440 million and $853 million in spending. Fourth quarter spending in 2018 totaled $499 million, with traveler groups spending $130 per day on average.

Visitation to Montana was down 1% in 2018, though spending in the state increased nearly 11% overall.

“It’s really a nice overall picture for the year, with the number of travelers holding nearly steady, but we had over a 10 percent increase in what the state’s visitors spent while they were here,” said Kara Grau, ITRR assistant director of economic analysis.

Visitors spend most on fuel, dining out and lodging according to Grau.

“Even travelers just passing through Montana make stops for fuel, food and possibly a night or two as they make their way through the state, not to mention those here for longer vacations, so it’s no surprise that spending on those things always tops the list,” Grau said.

Tourist spending on outfitted and guided activities has increased over the past few years, surpassing retail spending by travelers to become fourth on the list of spending categories.

Grau said this jump can be attributed to a shift in tourists valuing experiences over things.

“We saw a bit of an increase in the proportion of vacationers compared to 2017, along with a decrease in the proportion of travelers in Montana simply passing through,” says Jeremy Sage, ITRR economist and associate director. “That, along with a good 2017-18 ski season, likely bolstered traveler spending during the year.”

In 2018, out-of-state travelers directly supported nearly $3.2 billion in economic activity for Montana and over 43,000 state jobs, as well as indirectly supporting an additional $2.1 billion in economic activity and more than 16,200 jobs.

For more information about 2018 visitor spending estimates, visit All information and reports published by ITRR are online at

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Explore Indian Country – New Guide Book Available

Posted by: on Apr 8, 2019 in Latest News | No Comments


There is great diversity among the twelve tribes located in Big Sky Country in their languages, rituals, histories and governments. Each tribe has a distinct and unique cultural heritage that contributes to modern Montana. Indigenous languages and traditions are alive and well throughout Indian Country, where visitors are welcome to experience the varied customs of each tribe.

Click here to download the full guide.


Indian Country Cover

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.