MISSOULA – A new study shows how outfitted and guided experiences are helping to drive Montana’s outdoor tourism economy.
The report from the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research shows that spending on outfitters and guides rose to nearly $374 million last year and accounted for 11 percent of the money that visitors spent in the Treasure State.
Outfitters and guides served more than 700,000 clients, 63 percent of whom were from out of state, in 2017. The study adds that the out-of-state visitors not only spent money on guides, but also across other sectors of the economy as they dined, slept, and drove throughout the state. In total, visitor groups who hired guides spent $791 million.
While outfitting and guiding in Montana has traditionally been considered a hunting, fishing, or rafting-based industry, the definition has now expanded to cover all outdoor recreation experiences in Montana.
Not only do visitors hire guides for fishing, hunting, and rafting, but also for a wide swath of other activities – from horseback riding to snowmobiling to wildlife viewing and even outdoor education, according to the study.
“The high proportion of total visitor spending represented by those groups who take part in a guided activity is reflective of their group characteristics more generally,” said Jeremy Sage, lead author on the study and associate director for the ITRR.
“These visitors are more likely than the average visitor to be in Montana for vacation or recreation – 72 percent compared to 36 percent,” Sage added in a news release.
The visitors spend an average of seven nights in Montana, compared to around five for the typical visitor. Visitors taking guided trips also spend at higher rates than average according to the report — $481 per day compared to $128.
“Visitors want to engage in the recreation opportunities Montana has to offer and hiring a guide or outfitter is a great way to make a leap into an activity that you may be uncomfortable with, but eager to try,” Sage said.