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Study shows rising impact of tourism spending in Montana

Posted at 8:27 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 22:27:11-04

MISSOULA – Visitors from out of state are spending more money in Montana, even though the state is seeing fewer tourists.

UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research study shows that out-of-state visitors were not shy about dumping money into the Montana economy in 2018.

“So, our numbers for the 2018 visitor’s season [were] at about 10.4%, up to $3.58 billion. So this represents the money spent by all kinds of nonresident visitors coming into the state,” explained economist Jeremy Sage.

He says the study looked at dollars coming from recreation, vacations, those visiting family and friends, and spending on businesses.

Glacier Country Tourism, which covers all of western Montana, says the news is especially positive considering it was not an ideal summer tourist season in Glacier National Park.

“Glacier County received an 11% increase in expenditures over 2017 last year, which is especially good considering we had a smoke and fire season last year,” Glacier County Tourism Director Racene Friede told MTN News.

Other regions of Montana also saw an economic boost from tourism spending.

The Glacier Region alone — which encompasses all of Northwest Montana — took in 34% of all nonresident spending while the Yellowstone Region took in an additional 30%.“In southwest Montana, the travel region, they had $463 million of nonresident expenditures, so certainly in western Montana proper there is a significant amount of economic boost,” Friede said.

Friede and Sage both say this impressive increase in expenditure benefits is far reaching.

“When we look and talk about billions of dollars, that is all new money coming into our mainstream businesses,” Friede said.

“Buying goods of some sort — whether it’s retail goods at any of our local shops in downtown areas, ‘Made in Montana’ products, to expenditures on outfitters and guide — … to have a real Montana experience,” Sage explained.

He added that tourism spending numbers fluctuate year-to-year depending on the overall economy, so this is a trend that isn’t necessarily going to continue, but it is certainly a plus for the current economy.

-Reported by Russ Thomas/MTN News