Friday Flash 5/8/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners


Guidance for tourism industry partners regarding COVID-19 is available here. This web post will be updated with new information as it becomes available. We urge the traveling public to stay informed, seek information from reputable sources, and take preventative measures, like washing your hands, to protect against COVID-19.

$123 Million Now Available in Emergency Grants

Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday announced that families, small businesses, non-profits, health services centers and individuals across Montana hardest-hit by impacts of COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for grants through nine new programs created in response to the emergency.

The following new programs join the state’s suite of existing support services and direct federal appropriations:

  • Montana Business Stabilization Program

    The Montana Business Stabilization Grant program will provide working capital for small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations in order to retain existing businesses, retain current employees or retain business viability for future re-employment. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, employ 50 or less, have sustained a loss of revenue since Feb. 15 due to COVID 19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are not eligible. Total funding available is $50 million, the maximum award amount per business is $10,000. 

  • Montana Innovation Grant Program

    The Montana Innovation Grant program is intended to help companies scale up, improve capabilities, or drive expanded distribution of products or services developed in response to COVID-19. Projects should demonstrate significant impact in improving public health, safety, and economic impact. Eligible companies include non-profit and for-profit businesses of less than 150 employees that have created an innovative product or service intended to directly confront the COVID-19 emergency. Applicants must have primary operations based in Montana, be in good standing with the Montana Secretary of State and must not be debarred from receiving federal or state funds. Total funding available is $5 million with a maximum award amount of $25,000.

  • Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program

    Grants are available to food and agriculture businesses to help increase community resilience amid the COVID 19 pandemic and other economic disruptions. Grants are intended to create additional economic activity and bolster food security. Examples of eligible projects include, but are not limited to, those focused on accessing new markets, projects which strengthen and expand local food systems, and other business adaptations that decrease food and agricultural waste. The need for such innovations must be driven by the COVID 19 pandemic. Total funding available is $500,000, with a maximum application amount of $10,000.
  • Social Services Nonprofit Grants

    Grants of up to $10,000 per applicant are available for nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency to retain existing programs and services, employees, or organizational viability for provision of future services and operations. Eligible applicants are registered, Montana-based social service nonprofits that were operating prior to February 15, 2020. This includes senior services, housing services, transportation, public safety, energy assistance, economic development, job training, recreational services and tourism-related activities. Total funding available is $10 million.

  • Emergency Housing Assistance Program

    The Emergency Housing Assistance program will provide rent, security deposit, mortgage payment, and/or hazard insurance assistance as-needed for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income loss as a result of COVID-19. Initial payments may include up to three months assistance where the eligible household can demonstrate arrears for April and May, with continual inability to make their June payment. Montana Housing will pay the difference between 30 percent of the household’s current gross monthly income and their eligible housing assistance costs, up to $2,000 a month. Household income limits range from $75,000-$125,000 based on family size. Montanans receiving other forms of housing assistance are not eligible. Total funding available is $50 million.

See a complete list of new grant programs and apply at


Governor Bullock Announces Additional Phase One Guidelines to Include Gyms, Movie Theaters, and Museums

Governor Steve Bullock on Thursday announced additional Phase One guidelines that will allow gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15 as long as they adhere to strict guidelines limiting capacity, requiring social distancing, and imposing thorough sanitation requirements.

In consultation with public health experts, we have determined that these businesses can carefully reopen under strict capacity, social distancing, and sanitation guidelines,” Governor Bullock said. “As Montana continues to aggressively manage the virus and we move forward with the plan to reopen, I am again reminding Montanans that social distancing is vital to continue curbing the virus. All of us must do our part to stay open and stay on a path of decline in positive cases.”

So far, Montana businesses and customers are working together to practice the social distancing and hygiene measures necessary to restart our economy, restore our collective sense of well-being and keep each other safe. I am confident we will all do our part during this important next step,” said John Felton, President and CEO of RiverStone Health.

Health and wellness has always been our goal, and the advent of the coronavirus has only sharpened that focus. Our commitment is to our members, and our communities, keeping them safe. The protocols established by the state and the fitness industry will be instrumental in this endeavor. We want to bring back the physical and mental well-being of Montanans, get past this pandemic and return to what we do best - helping you stay fit and healthy,” said Doug Mahlum, Montana Athletic Club.

The reopening date is set at May 15 at the request of the businesses and local public health to allow time to prepare and ensure guidance is being followed.

Under the updated guidance developed with input from public health officials, fitness studios, gyms and pools in gyms can begin operating at 50 percent capacity and with strict guidelines including requiring staff to sanitize frequently touched areas and equipment during hours of operation, train workers on symptoms and handwashing technique as well as posting relevant signage instructing members with symptoms to stay home. Hand sanitizer must be available, employees should wear masks and guests should wear masks when possible. Additionally, a six-foot distance must be maintained between equipment and in locker rooms. Personal training may be allowed if social distancing can be maintained. Indoor group classes may not be offered and outdoor group classes can be conducted as long as social distancing is maintained and in groups of 10 or fewer if appropriate physical distancing is not possible.

Gym pools are allowed to operate at half capacity as well. The CDC has indicated that properly maintained pool water inactivates the virus. It is critical that pools that have shut down during this time or reduced maintenance follow proper reopening procedures and sampling to ensure the water is safe for use before opening. In the event a confirmed COVID-19 case is associated with a facility the facility should clean in accordance with CDC’s facility environmental cleaning procedures for workout areas, seating, locker rooms, and other areas of the establishment frequented by swimmers. Pool classes may continue if social distancing can be observed and swimmers should maintain a six foot distance in the pool at all times. Guidance was also issued this week to allow pools at licensed public accommodations (Hotels, Motels, Bed and Breakfasts, Tourist Homes, etc) to operate if at a 50 percent capacity and with additional social distancing and safety measures.

Non-tactile museums and movie theaters will be allowed to open under the updated guidance. Interactive museums or museums that allow touch interactions and displays and live performance theaters cannot operate.

Museums and theaters must keep their capacity at 50 percent and maintain six feet between non family members or the immediate party. Signage must be posted instructing those who have COVID-19 related symptoms to stay home. Facilities must increase cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces and control customer flow to maximize distancing. Hand sanitizer or hand washing stations must be available and each venue should create and implement a written COVID-19 response plan. Cleaning and sanitizing should be completed no less than every two hours. Facilities should install shielding between workers and attendees whenever possible.

Theaters should increase cleaning time period between events, performances and showings to ensure that commonly touched areas such as arm rests and railings are cleaned frequently. Ushers should monitor and enforce social distancing in theaters. At museums, gift shops are also limited to 50 percent capacity.

The full guidance will be posted at and the Directive for establishing conditions for Phase One will be updated to reflect these additions.

Montana is still under phase one of the Reopening the Big Sky phased approach and adjustment of the phases is at the discretion of the Governor. Other places of assembly such as performance theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, music halls, and pools that are not in gyms or at a licensed public accommodation shall remain closed. Gatherings should continue to be avoided in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Senior living and assisted living facilities must continue to restrict visitors. The 14-day travel quarantine remains in effect.

Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of May 4 from Destination Analysts

Americans report their next leisure trip will be to a destination 686 miles away on average, and they expect airlines and hotels to adopt new cleanliness and safety protocols to protect their health.

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • Perceptions of Safety Continue to Gradually Improve: Concerns about personally (6.6/10) or friends & family (7.2/10) contracting the virus are at the lowest levels they have been since March 15. Now, 33.9% feel the situation in the US will get better in the next month. Comfort going out in their own communities to undertake local activities is slowly returning--30.6% now feel comfortable from a low of 19.7% April 5. The percent agreeing they won't travel until there is a vaccine continues to decline (29.8% down from 36.5% April 19).

  • Looking at Travel Ahead: The coronavirus’ impact on American travel remains at 75.7%, with 69.4% canceling a trip and 54.8% postponing. September now has the highest number of American travelers having at least tentative trip plans (23.5%), with increases reported in November (15.5%) and December (14.5%), as well. The average distance of American travelers’ next leisure trip is 686 miles overall, with Baby Boomers and travelers in the West and South reporting trip averages over 700 miles, and affluent travelers reporting nearly 800 miles.

  • Air Travel Likely an Uneven Return: Half of American travelers feel it is too risky to travel on an airplane right now with, 42.8% saying their next trip by air will not be until 2021 or later. Millennial and GenZ travelers are somewhat less uncomfortable, with more saying their next trip by air will be this year compared to older generations. Although most have some concerns about the safety of flying on commercial airlines, business travelers are the relatively most comfortable traveling by air right now.

  • The New Protocols Expected of Airlines and Hotels: Travelers want airlines to adopt several new cleaning and spread prevention protocols, though the practices that will make travelers feel most confident an airline is looking out for their health are high-tech cleaning of planes’ interiors between flights (44.4%) and requiring passenger health screenings (44.2%). Similarly, travelers expect new operational practices at hotels. What will make them most confident that a hotel is looking out for their health and safety are guests being provided with hand sanitizer, face masks, disinfectant wipes, etc. (36.8%) and having the property’s cleaning/sanitizing procedures well-explained (32.0%).

  • Uncertainty about Reopening: Overall, 35.3% of American travelers say they are comfortable with their home state re-opening its economy right now. As expected, there are significant differences by region of residence—only 26.1% of travelers in the Northeast are comfortable with this while 39.8% of those in the South are. The percent of American travelers agreeing they don’t want travelers in their community right now is still notable at 60.4%, but down from 67.6% April 19. Travelers continue to be split on whether they would be happy seeing an ad right now promoting their community as a place to visit when it's safe. 36.4% say they would be unhappy, 32.8% are neutral, and 30.8% would be happy.

  • Travel is Missed: 70.6% say they miss traveling, especially the most frequent travelers. Many travelers expressed an excitement to return to travel when they feel it is safe, which will include the travel industry’s participation in adopting health/safety protocols.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This regularly scheduled call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 19 CVBs and specific industry stakeholders. Upcoming meetings are listed below. Please update your calendars. For assistance or information regarding this bi-monthly call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887. 
    • May 27
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • May 4, 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 


Tourism Partner Resources

Please visit the Tourism Partner Resource page at for tourism related COVID-19 resources and information. 

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As we continue to practice social distancing, you can support your local Taste our Place establishments by ordering takeout or delivery. You can also purchase gift cards from your favorite retailer or shop directly from your favorite Made in Montana producer online. Visit to find Made in Montana producers and retailers near you.  

MIM Members in the News

After Struggling Through Shut-Downs, Craft Brewers are Eager to Get Pouring Again
Made in Montana members featured in this story from KPVI include Meadowlark Brewery, Thirsty Street, Red Lodge Ales and the Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill.

Montana has nearly 100 independent breweries, one of three states with the most craft breweries per capita, according to the Montana Brewers Association. Many breweries spend spring months brewing and canning beverages to meet the demand from out of state visitors.

This year breweries had to rethink their plans when COVID-19 spread and taprooms closed. From Sidney to Missoula, breweries changed their product from beer to sanitizer, switched cans for kegs, and started thinking creatively on how to rearrange taprooms to keep patrons safe. Read more from KPVI here


Visit Montana has Released a New Video Aiming to Inspire and Remind Travelers That a Trip to Montana is Worth the Wait

The camera sweeps over iconic mountain ranges and wide-open prairie. We get glimpses of an artist at work, a pair fly-fishing, hikers surrounded by spectacular unspoiled nature, and fancy dancer spinning in slow motion. “These moments are worth the wait,” the line reads on the screen.

Now is not the time to welcome visitors back to Montana, but when the time is right we want visitors to keep us in mind,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “There’s no better way to inspire future visitors than by showing off all Montana has to offer.”

Tourism is one of Montana’s top industries, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs and generating an estimated $3.7 billion in revenue in a typical year. This year will undoubtedly look different as protecting against the spread of the novel Coronavirus has limited travel. Montana’s out-of-state travel quarantine remains in place for the duration of the governor’s declared emergency.

In a rolling survey of American travelers by Destination Analysts, 51 percent of respondents said they plan to start traveling again this fall. More and more travelers say they’ll be seeking out regional, close-to-home destinations. Montana may be at an advantage when the time is right to travel as the desire to visit uncrowded destinations has increased.

As the sun sets over Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, the inspirational video asks travelers, “When it’s time, what will your #MontanaMoment be?” The video is available on YouTube and


Backgrounds for Video Conferencing

At this time when we are all social distancing and connecting virtually with loved one or colleagues, download one (or all!) of our Montana Zoom backgrounds to virtually create your own #MontanaMoment and let others know that Montana is worth the wait. Download the backgrounds here.

Visit MT Backgrounds

Best Marketing Practices

Visit Great Falls…Virtually!

Part response and part proactive planning is behind the Great Falls CVB’s virtual vacation program that offers up several resources to people that either want to get away anyway they can now, or to plan their next vacation for when the country finally reopens. Located in central Montana with a plethora of outdoor activities, the CVB has taken to social media to inspire residents and future visitors that the area has variety of outdoor adventures available that can be done at a safe social distance. According to CVB director Rebecca Engum, the social media posts promoting the virtual vacations kicked off in mid-April and are geared to emotionally connect the potential traveler to the people that live here in Great Falls. Everything from how to craft a local cocktail to learning how to make a fire along the trail of Lewis and Clark is posted to engage visitors with the locals. Check out the posts online here.  

Outdoor Recreation

Five Reasons Trail Research Matters

Trails are invaluable assets to any community, and when it comes to procuring funding, building coalitions, providing the best trail access, and more, trail research is one of the best tools available for showing that worth.

Research and data on trails are critical to show the impact and benefits of trails. The trails community is witnessing unprecedented growth and a shift in leadership away from Federal agencies, toward foundation and private investment driving trail development. These growing efforts would benefit from sound analyses and aggregation of trail-related data and information to define how trails impact America.

This highlights the need to develop the tools that allow a dynamic trail community to come together, professionalize and standardize, document our value and impact, and articulate this value and impact to public leaders, the outdoor industry, and other industries that unwittingly benefit from trails. Read more from AmericanTrails here.

National Park Lodge Operators

Yellowstone NP (Xanterra)Yellowstone to See Staged Opening with Limited Services
Park managers still haven’t announced an opening date, but they have said that Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will see staged openings that start small and rely on fewer seasonal employees, with reduced services and a focus on visitor and worker safety.

Xanterra Travel Collection, Yellowstone’s primary concessioner and operator of most hotels and campgrounds in the park, is planning on starting operations in mid-June. Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra, said Thursday that guest lodging will be limited at first to campgrounds and cabins that include bathrooms. Hotels will not open in June, Hoeninghausen said, but managers will assess options throughout the summer as public health conditions and National Park Service guidance allows.

Hoeninghausen said Mammoth Hot Springs facilities will open June 15, with Yellowstone Lake area opening June 17 and Canyon opening June 19."

From Xanterra's website: "All Xanterra operations in Yellowstone are Currently Scheduled to Remain Closed Through June 14, 2020. We Anticipate Re-Opening Beginning Monday, June 15, 2020, Based on Regional Guidelines at that time." Read more from the Helena IR here

Glacier NP (Pursuit & Xanterra)Glacier Park Lodge Opening Moved Back 3 Weeks
The company that operates a historic hotel near Glacier National Park plans to move back its opening date three weeks due to COVID-19.

The 161-bedroom Glacier Park Lodge sits near the park entrance and Amtrak station in East Glacier Park. Its operator, Pursuit, had planned to open it to visitors June 3, but told the Missoulian Thursday that it now plans to open June 24.

The other hotel that Pursuit owns on the Blackfeet Reservation, St. Mary Village, is currently scheduled to open June 18. Otis, the company’s spokesperson, wrote that “we will continue to work in alignment with government officials, health organizations and the Blackfeet Tribal Council to ensure (that) when we are able to re-open we will do so safely with confidence from the community.”

From Xanterra's website: "All Cedar Creek Lodge operations are being suspended through May 22, 2020 due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus). Glacier National Park Lodges will reopen on Monday, June 15. We will keep information updated on this page. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are currently taking reservations for Saturday, May 23 and beyond for Cedar Creek Lodge and June 15 and beyond for Glacier National Park Lodges. You can still make your vacation a reality this year – book in the summer, fall or winter now. Glacier National Park is a timeless beauty, and you can still make time to experience this magnificent destination this year." Read more from the Helena IR here


2020 Census Operational Adjustments Due to COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau is adjusting 2020 Census operations in order to:

  • Protect the health and safety of the American public and Census Bureau employees.
  • Implement guidance from federal, state and local authorities.
  • Ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities.

Some Update / Leave operations will start on the May 4, 2020 but full field operations will not resume until after June 1, 2020 extended to October 31, 2020. Additionally, the Census Bureau is seeking statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts to the President on April 30, 2021 instead of December 31, 2020. 

Complete the 2020 Census Now!

Filling out the Census is quick, easy, and safe. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete and your information and privacy are protected by federal law. Montanans can fill out their Census forms online at or by phone at 1.844.330.2020. The Census is also available via TDD (Telephone Display Device) at 844.467.2020. Learn more at CENSUS.MT.GOV.

Other News

U.S. Travel Association Releases Guidance for “Travel in the New Normal”

Following a collaboration between medical experts and a broad array of businesses and organizations, the U.S. travel industry submitted to the White House and governors a document containing detailed guidance for travel-related businesses to help keep their customers and employees safe as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Travel in the New Normal” guidance is focused on six main areas, with the document providing specific examples for each:

  1. Travel businesses should adapt operations, modify employee practices and/or redesign public spaces to help protect employees and customers.
  2. Travel businesses should consider implementing touchless solutions, where practical, to limit the opportunity for virus transmission while also enabling a positive travel experience.
  3. Travel businesses should adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19.
  4. Travel businesses should promote health screening measures for employees and isolate workers with possible COVID-19 symptoms and provide health resources to customers.
  5. Travel businesses should establish a set of procedures aligned with CDC guidance should an employee test positive for COVID-19.
  6. Travel businesses should follow best practices in food and beverage service to promote health of employees and customers. 

Click here to read the “Travel in the New Normal” document in its entirety.

DMO Communication in Uncertain Times: Responses to COVID-19

Marketing a destination has never been more complex. With tourism businesses closing and travel coming to a halt across the globe, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) like yours are forced to think differently. While forging a path ahead might feel overwhelming, the way you communicate can and must be crystal clear. Read more from Destination Think! here

Funding Resources

USDA Implements Immediate Measures to Help Rural Residents, Businesses and Communities Affected by COVID-19

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.

Effective March 31, 2020 until September 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees. Read the full announcement here to learn more about the opportunities USDA Rural Development is implementing to provide immediate relief to our customers, partners, and stakeholders.

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide Lists Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents Impacted by COVID-19

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Monday unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.
Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities preparing for and impacted by COVID-19,” Perdue said. “This resource guide will help our rural leaders, whether they are in agriculture, education, health care or any other leadership capacity, understand what federal assistance is available for their communities during this unprecedented time.”

USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, click here

Other Dates/Events to Note

September 14-16, 2020The 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit—This summit is an enhanced follow-up to the 2018 inaugural full Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit. 

October 4-6, 2020Northwest USA Spotlight Tourism Conference (Helena)—This tourism conference which is attended by qualified tour operators and suppliers. For more information, click here

October 6-8, 2020—The 2020 NAISMA Annual Conference is the organization’s 27th Annual Conference (Whitefish)—Sessions will present new techniques and technologies, standards, climate change impacts and adaptation strategies. Other topics will include 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