Friday Flash 2/21/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

MOTBD Fast Facts & Funding

The second page of the Fast Facts & Funding document has been updated and is available here. Note: The first page reflects the final numbers from 2018 and will not change until ITRR has final 2019 numbers (approximately June 2020).

Save the Dates...

  • March 13-14, 2020—Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts (Helena). For more information, click here
  • March 18, 2020—Small Business Development Center Day
  • Bi-Monthly Tourism Partner Call—Calls will be held on the 4th Wednesday at 10:00 AM on the following dates (unless otherwise noted). Please update your calendars. For assistance or information regarding this bi-monthly call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887. 
    • March 25, 2020
    • May 27, 2020
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • April 1, 2020—Census Day
  • April 20, 2020—Region/CVB 3rd Quarter FY20 Financial Reports Due
  • April 26-28, 2020—Governor's Conference on Tourism & Recreation (Billings)
  • May 1, 2020—Region/CVB FY21 Marketing Plans due to MOTBD in WebGrants
  • June 8-9, 2020—TAC Meeting 
  • July 20, 2020—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY20 Financial Reports Due
  • October 5-6, 2020—TAC Meeting 
  • February 8-9, 2021—TAC Meeting 
  • June 14-15, 2021—TAC Meeting 


Governor's Conference on Tourism & Recreation


Join us for the Governor's Conference on Tourism and Recreation in Billings, Montana on April 26-28, 2020. Bringing together tourism and recreation leaders from every corner of the state continues to elevate these industries by inspiring innovation, educating through on-the-ground insights, connecting partners across the state, and experiencing all that the host city has to offer. Register now at the special rate of $229 by clicking here. Prices will increase on April 1. 

Tourism Awards Nomination Deadline Extended 

The deadline to submit nominations for the Montana Tourism Awards has been extended to March 1, 2020. These awards recognize outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that strengthen Montana's tourism and recreation industries. Submit your nomination here

Conference Speakers 

We are pleased to announce the following speakers to the 2020 Governor's Conference:

Shawna Suckow

Shawna Suckow

Shawna has spoken in 17 countries on five continents helping businesses to understand the ever-evolving customer landscape. Her honors include being named to the Global Top 100 Women Business & Tech Speakers (along with Lisa Ling, Barbara Corcoran, Sheryl Sandberg and others), Planners’ Favorite Speakers lists of 2014 and 2015, and Top 8 Speakers of 2013 (along with James Earl Jones).

In 2019, she received the highest lifetime designation a speaker can earn: the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). Shawna will kick off the conference as the guest speaker at the Conference Launch Sunday evening before the Welcome Reception. She will also present in a breakout session on Monday and as the conference closing keynote on Tuesday. Learn more about Shawna here


Destination Analysts + MOTBD + Hoffman York

This group presentation will feature market research partner Destination Analysts presenting results from the 2019 Montana Brand Awareness & Understanding which builds on past studies for a more in-depth look at potential travelers to Montana.

In addition to measuring brand strength, this survey of leisure travelers in key markets will help us improve our ongoing tourism marketing efforts against existing and potential new niche audiences. Destination Analysts will be joined by members of the MOTBD marketing and research staff and Hoffman York.

Tourism Grants

2020 Event Grant Application Cycle Open

A special application cycle of tourism event grants is now open. The grant awards of $5,000-$25,000 are to support an event being held in Montana before June 30, 2021. The purpose of this grant is to attract non-resident or out-of-area resident visitors to the event, enhancing attendance and increasing visitor-generated revenues.

Awards will be based on the number of total applications received, in addition to a review and evaluation process led by Montana Department of Commerce staff and a member of the Tourism Advisory Council. Applications are due on March 1, 2020. Learn more here

Made in Montana

Made in Montana Tradeshow: March 13-14, 2020

Now Seeking Nominations for 2020 Retailer of the Year
We are looking for the store owner, manager or buyer who has made a long-term commitment to carry Made in Montana products in their store. This person is someone who makes an outstanding effort to help amplify the Made in Montana brand, and commits themselves to promoting the sale of Made in Montana goods. Submit your nomination by clicking here

Wholesale Buyers
Register as a buyer today and save time at the registration desk! Wholesale buyer day is Friday, March 13 at the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds. You can register by clicking here


Counting Rural Montana

Montana spans more than 147,000 square miles and has an estimated population of 1.06 million people (according to 2018 Census estimates). About 44 percent or 470,000 live in rural areas of the state. The majority of Montana’s geographic area is defined by the Census Bureau as "rural" meaning most population centers have fewer than 2,500 people. 

People who live in rural areas are considered hard to count populations for several reasons.These households often do not have a typical mailing address and use post office boxes in nearby towns. The U.S. Census Bureau does not mail to P.O. boxes. Instead, Census takers deliver paper questionnaires to each home in such areas, along with information about options to respond online or by phone as well as information on how to confirm and record the physical location of the home.

Rural areas are also considered hard-to-count for the 2020 Census because many do not have access to broadband and have a lower percentage of households with internet subscriptions. This lack of internet and broadband connectivity poses challenges for much of rural America. A map of hard-to-count places in Montana with low broadband coverage/internet subscription rates is shown here.

U.S. Census Bureau employees take extraordinary measures to reach homes that can be difficult to access in rural and remote areas, whether they are located at the top of a mountain or at the end of a mile-long gravel drive. In the 2020 Census, enumerators nationwide will go back to a household up to six times if no response has been received. 

So why does an accurate count of rural Montana matter? Census data is used to determine our fair share of federal funding for things like healthcare, schools and highways. For every person who is not counted, Montana stands to lose $20,000 over the next decade. Plus, Census data shapes our local voting districts and Montana is on the cusp of receiving a second member of Congress.

Upcoming Census Events

  • February 27: Bi-weekly Census webinar. Please register here.
  • Mid- March:  All Montana public K-12 schools should begin looking for their Census and Schools packet from the State Complete Count Committee. This will include a Census activity book for K-6 and all schools will receive posters, fact sheets, rack cards, and a Statics in Schools brochure. Educators, please keep your eyes open for these items and help Montana's children obtain a complete count for their future.
  • March 12 - 31:  Montana households will begin receiving official Census Bureau materials with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. Watch for a postcard to be mailed to you or left in a packet along with the Census form on your front door.
  • March 30 - April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days.
  • April 1: Census Day!
  • Throughout April:  Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people.
  • May - July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

Montana in the News
Tourism Partner Shout-Outs, Recognition and News


Museum of the Rockies in the Spokesman-ReviewVisiting the Dinosaurs: Museum has a Huge Collection of Fossils, Plus Exhibits on More Recent Montana History—Museum of the Rockies rocks. This Bozeman institution displays literally tons of rocks that are millions of years old – the fossilized remains of plants and animals that no longer exist. Including an incredible collection of dinosaurs.

Though dinosaurs have been gone for millions of years, they still fascinate. And they’re still very much a part of our daily lives. Think about how they have been pictured in recent years on children’s shows such as “Barney” or “The Flinstones,” in logos such as Sinclair’s green dino or in the movie “Jurassic Park.” Seeing dinosaur bones in person is shocking. One of the most prominent displays at the museum is a Tyrannosaurus rex, which was found in Montana. At 12 feet high and about 40 feet long, it was bigger than an elephant and the teeth, you can’t miss them. They are enormous – some teeth are as big as bananas in rows on each side of the mouth. Read more from the Spokesman-Review here

Other News

Governor Bullock, Lt. Governor Cooney Launch Database to Connect Rural Communities with Funding Resources

Governor Steve Bullock and Lt. Governor Mike Cooney launched a comprehensive database this week that will host state and federal grant and loan opportunities that rural Montana communities can leverage to fund community and economic development projects across the state.

The Community Development Funding Database will help communities, especially in rural areas, fully take advantage of over 100 funding opportunities to revitalize downtown areas, implement broadband, update aging infrastructure, and more,” Governor Bullock said. “The searchable database will cut down time spent evaluating individual grant and loan requirements and quickly connect small towns with the resources they need to remain vibrant.”

When traveling across the state, it was clear that many communities are wanting to move forward with important projects but are struggling to navigate the complex state and federal funding landscape,” Lt. Governor Mike Cooney said. “The Main Street Montana Rural Partners project aims to equip every Montana community with the tools and resources they need to have equal economic opportunity and this database gets us one step closer to our goal.”

The need for the Community Development Funding Database was identified during visits facilitated by Lt. Governor Cooney to small towns during the Main Street Montana - Rural Partners initiative. The project to date has focused on six rural communities and Montana’s tribal communities to look for ways to empower small towns and ensure economic opportunity exists across Montana. Read more here

Coronavirus and the Potential Impacts to Tourism in Montana

Yellowstone Expected to Feel Impacts of Coronavirus

Whether or not novel coronavirus itself makes its way to Wyoming, experts say businesses across the greater Yellowstone ecosystem will feel the effects of a lack of Chinese visitors. The Chinese government has imposed mandatory quarantines in parts of the country while the U.S. government has greatly restricted travelers from China to limit the spread of the new virus.

Chinese tour groups are 100% suspended right now, said Brian Riley, a Wyoming tourism professional who has been marketing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park tours to Chinese visitors for the past several years. [...] As for Yellowstone area tourism, the hardest-hit gateway community will be West Yellowstone, Montana. Almost half of all visitors entering Yellowstone come through the West Entrance and businesses in West Yellowstone have invested heavily in advertising to the Chinese market. Read more here.

Additional Projections on the Impacts of Coronavirus to Tourism
STR has done some research related to the coronavirus. Here is a link to access STR data and research on their sister company, HNN’s website. Several articles cover impact on US, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. 

As fears over an outbreak of the new coronavirus centered in Wuhan, China, continue to restrict travel, visits to the U.S. from China could drop by 25% in 2020, according to analysis by Tourism Economics.

Speaking on a webinar Thursday titled “U.S. economy and hotel industry 2020 outlook: Navigating the slowdown,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, said a 25% drop in Chinese visitors to the U.S. means a loss of 4 million hotel roomnights and $5.8 billion in visitor spending in 2020, and ultimately 7.8 million roomnights and $10.3 billion in spending through 2024.

Visitors from China to the U.S. are projected to drop by about 885,000 in 2020, and by about 1.6 million cumulatively through 2024, according to the analysis. “Given all the canceled flights, all the canceled routes, this is not an unreasonable expectation,” he said.

Other Dates/Events to Note

March 18, 2020—SBDC Day (Held annually on the 3rd Wednesday in March)SBDC Day is a national, collective proclamation of the success and impact America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have across the nation in economic development and the small businesses community. For more information, click here

SBDC Training Workshops—The Montana SBDC Network offers a wide variety of training and workshops for small businesses in all phases of business development, from start-ups to those looking at growth and expansion. Click here for a list of popular training offered in the SBDC Network. 

Nonprofit Board Leadership & Stewardship Workshop Series—Montana Nonprofit Association's (MNA) Nonprofit Board Leadership and Stewardship workshop provides content, resources, and insights for newly minted and long-time board members, as well as your leadership team. This workshop will cover topics crucial to board service including culture, committees, calendars, legal responsibilities, and recruitment. Invite your board or your leadership team and make 2020 the year you prioritize board development. To learn more or register, click here. Workshops will take place from 9:30 AM—3:30 PM in each location:

  • February 27—Dillon
  • March 17—Billings
  • April 8—Great Falls
  • April 9—Lewistown

April 28-30, 2020Montana's Healthy Communities Conference (Helena)—Montana Healthy Communities is a collaboration of various organizations committed to raising awareness in Montana about the relationship between the physical and mental health of its citizens and the economic vitality of the community. This includes the coordinated discussion, planning and funding for quality jobs, transportation, research, broadband, schools, safe walking, biking and recreational options, early child care, housing, infrastructure, revitalization and historic preservation. Click here for more information. 

May 3-5, 2020Northwest USA Spotlight Tourism Conference (Helena)—This is a casual and intimate tourism conference that combines educational seminars, networking functions, site-seeing tours and a supplier trade show. If your Region or CVB is looking to get face time with qualified tour operators from all over the US and Canada, there are sponsorship and exhibit opportunities for you at Spotlight. For more information, please contact Erinn Donnell with Visit Helena at 406.443.2117 or

May 28-29, 2020MEDA Spring Conference (Helena)

October 6-8, 2020—The 2020 NAISMA Annual Conference is the organization’s 27th Annual Conference (Whitefish)—Co-Sponsored with the Montana Invasive Species Council, the conference will include field trips to visit Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, and surrounding natural areas. Concurrent sessions will present new techniques and technologies, standards, climate change impacts and adaptation strategies, biocontrol updates, forest pests, feral hogs, new invasive species on the horizon, aquatic invasive species management, education and awareness brands, Cooperative Weed Management Area successes, cross-jurisdictional strategies, and much more. To learn more, click here