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Study shows rising impact of tourism spending in Montana

Posted at 11:06 AM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 13:06:22-04

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

UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research study showed 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 was at about 10.4 percent up to $3.58 billion. So, this represents the money spent by all kinds of non-resident visitors coming into the state,” said economist Jeremy Sage.

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

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

“Glacier County received an 11 percent 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 said.

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

Glacier National Park Logan Pass Parking Lot
Out of state visitors are spending more money in Montana, even though we are seeing fewer tourists. (MTN News photo)

“In southwest Montana, the travel region had $463 million of non-resident expenditures, so certainly in western Montana proper there is a significant amount of economic boost,” Friede said.

The Glacier Region alone — which encompasses all of Northwest Montana — took in 34 percent of all non-resident spending while the Yellowstone Region took in an additional 30 percent.

Friede and Sage both said this impressive increase in expenditure benefits are 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 — that experience 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 positive for the current economy.

-Russ Thomas reporting for MTN News