The Economic Impact of Tourism in Montana

The impact of non-resident travel has been researched by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) at the University of Montana since 1987. Additionally, the U.S. Travel Association measures the impact of tourism in each state, and the National Park Service measures visitor statistics and the economic impact of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park on local communities.

In 2016, Montana’s over 12 million non-resident visitors:

  • spent $3 billion 
  • directly supported 34,670 jobs statewide
  • generated $181 million in state & local taxes
  • lowered taxes on each Montana household by over $426


2013 Nonresident Travel Economic Impacts & Expenditures By Region & County_Nonresident Travel Spending in Montana (2012-2013)
2013 Nonresident Visitor Impact: by full year, quarters, trip purpose & int'l visitors 2012 Montana Tourism Jobs Study
2014 Montana Tourism Business Outlook Survey Customize Your Own Montana Tourism Report
Impact of Travel in Montana - U.S. Travel Association National Park Visitor Statistics
National Park Visitor Spending Effects ITRR Archive of Nonresident Visitation Estimates

The Economic Impact of Tourism in the United States

Travel is among the top 10 industries in 48 states and D.C. in terms of employment (ranking 6th in 2013), and is responsible for generating nearly 15 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in economic output annually. The U.S. Travel Association measures the impact of travel and tourism on a national level, and provides research about the industry’s impact on each state.

In 2013, travel was the nation’s #1 service export with foreign visitors to the U.S. that year spending over $180 billion.

Facts and Statistics about the US Travel Industry - U.S. Travel Association 2013 US Travel Answer Sheet - U.S. Travel Association
State by State Impact Comparison (scroll down to interactive map) 2012 Tourism Jobs Report - U.S. Travel Association
2013 Travel Economic Impact Overview - U.S. Travel Association Outdoor Recreation Economies By State - The Outdoor Industry Association
2013 The Power of Travel Promotion - U.S. Travel Association 2013 US Tourism Industry Fast Facts - International Trade Administration

Montana Tourism Promotion Funding

Tourism promotion in Montana is funded by overnight guests who pay a combined 7% tax on lodging. About 50 percent of these total tax revenues from guests of hotels, campgrounds and other facilities is used to support the Montana Office of Tourism (MTOT) as well as Montana’s six tourism regions, 15 local visitor bureaus and fund research from the University of Montana.  Almost 7% of these total revenues is distributed among Montana State Parks, the Montana Historical Society and the Montana Heritage Commission. The remaining 43% of lodging tax funds are allocated directly to Montana’s general fund for the benefit of all Montanans.

The Tourism Advisory Council — a 13-member body appointed by the Governor — advises MTOT and approves the distribution of lodging tax funds to the regional non-profit tourism corporations and convention & visitors bureaus statewide. The below links provide further details on the state’s lodging tax, as well as state-by-state funding comparisons and case studies related to tourism marketing.

Montana Tourism Funding Fact Sheet (June 2014) - Montana Office of Tourism State of Film in Montana (2014)
2013 Report: The Power of Travel Promotion - U.S. Travel Association 2013 Article: 50 State Tourism Office Funding Comparison
2011 Report: The Power of Destination Marketing Case Studies - U.S. Travel Association 2010 Report: What Happens When You Stop Marketing: The Rise and Fall of Colorado Tourism
MCA 15-65, Montana Lodging Facility Use Tax Montana Gross Lodging Tax Revenues for Tourism Promotion and Infrastructure

Montana Airports

According to a study of the economic impact of Montana airports, more than half of the 1.5 million annual enplanements comes from visitors. Non-resident visitors enable Montana to have more air service than the state’s population could support on its own — benefitting residents, businesses, universities and statewide economic development efforts. The below links provide detailed information about airport passenger levels in Montana which provide an indication of the tourism industry’s health.

State of Montana Airline Boardings - 2014 Montana Airports Economic Impact Study - 2007-08
State of Montana Airline Boardings - 2013 Montana Air Service: Opportunities and Challenges
Bozeman Yellowstone Airport set for busiest summer yet in 2014  
Passenger Record Set at Billings Airport in 2012 Glacier Park International Airport Sees Record Passengers in 2012
2012 Record-Breaking Passenger Numbers for Missoula International Airport 2012 Passenger Boarding Record at Bozeman Yellowstone Int'l Airport

Montana Leisure and Hospitality Job Statistics

Nearly 12 percent of Montana’s workforce is employed in leisure and hospitality, and out-of-state travel supports roughly half of the jobs in this large economic sector. The below links provide monthly updates about employment in the Montana leisure and hospitality sector from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics - Montana Leisure and Hospitality Industry Montana Department of Labor & Industry - Montana Leisure and Hospitality Industry