Friday Flash 5/22/2020

Friday Flash Banner
MRC Rural Rd

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.

Tourism Partner Resources

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

Governor Bullock Announces Montana to Enter Phase Two of Reopening Plan on June 1st

Governor Steve Bullock announced Tuesday that the state will move to Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan and will lift the 14-day out-of-state travel quarantine beginning June 1 as Montana continues to have the lowest number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations per capita.

Montana has been an example for the rest of the nation in our response to this global pandemic. I have no doubt that we can continue to be that example, but only if Montanans, businesses, and visitors alike continue to take seriously the responsibility we all have in protecting others,” Governor Bullock said. “As we continue with the next phase in our reopening, our goal together as Montanans for the foreseeable future is to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Governor Bullock outlined the following indicators which allow Montana to move into Phase Two beginning on June 1:

  • A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
  • The current ability to contact and trace, along with plans to add additional contact tracers to the existing workforce.
  • Ensuring that health care workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
  • Ramping up testing capacity to eventually meet a target of 60,000 tests a month and prioritizing testing for vulnerable Montanans and tribal communities. A total of 5,600 tests were conducted last week. Increased testing continues with sentinel testing efforts in nursing homes and assisting living facilities, testing events in tribal areas, and drive through testing being conducted at a few sites.

Under Phase Two, effective June 1, avoid gatherings in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be cancelled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.

Under Phase Two, effective June 1, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase One, but with an increase to 75% capacity. Gyms, indoor group fitness classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols. Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines.

All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.

Social distancing, wearing a cloth mask, washing your hands, and sanitizing are all part of our new normal. If not for you, do it for others, especially for the most vulnerable among us,” Governor Bullock said. “Not following these guidelines could put us in a position where we have to go backward, instead of being able to continue to move forward.”

Vulnerable Montanans should still continue to stay home when possible during Phase Two. Visitation at nursing home and assisted living facilities remains suspended except for certain compassionate care situations.

Effective June 1, the 14-day travel quarantine for out-of-state travelers and residents arriving from another state or country to Montana for non-work-related purposes will be lifted. The Montana National Guard will continue to conduct screenings in airports and train depots and refer anyone with COVID-19-related symptoms to local public health officials.

To support Montana’s destination communities, the state will assist with establishing the following protocols:

  • Surveillance testing of employees.
  • Enhanced contact tracing resources deployed to these areas as requested by local authorities.
  • Ability to surge personal protective equipment to impacted health care systems.
  • Guidelines for operation for business that see high-tourist activity.

Montana’s gradual and phased plan to reopen began on April 26 with Phase One which allowed schools, places of worship, main street and retail businesses, and restaurants, breweries, and bars to reopen under social distancing guidelines. Governor Bullock also provided additional guidance to allow gyms, movie theaters, and museums to reopen under the first phase on May 15. 

Governor Bullock and his Coronavirus Task Force will continue to monitor cases closely and carefully to analyze Montana’s work to contain the virus. 

You can read the entire press release here. The Directive and its Appendix with reopening guidelines are posted online at COVID19.MT.GOV

Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of May 18 from Destination Analysts

As Americans gradually open back up to travel, they are making plans for their trips—the likes of which include beaches, parks, social distancing and hand sanitizer.

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • American travelers are demonstrating increased comfort with (or in spite of) their concerns surrounding COVID-19.
  • Feelings about the virus and travel are not uniform–geographically, demographically or psychograpically.
  • American travelers are opening back up to attending conferences and conventions.
  • Travel planning is happening.
  • Marketing could be effective in swaying travelers to choose a specific destination.
  • Travelers need destination-level information on safety.
  • Rural residents are the least comfortable with tourists presently, setting up potential tensions with travelers desiring the types of assets found in these places.
  • Travel remains recognized for its positive emotional benefits for families.

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, 2020—TAC Meeting (This meeting will be held via GoToWebinar. Details to join the meeting coming soon.)
  • 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 


2020 Montana Tourism Awards Announced

Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice announced Monday, the winners of the 2020 Montana Tourism Awards, recognizing the significant contributions Montanans have made to the state’s tourism and recreation industries.

The annual Montana Tourism Awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that play an integral part in strengthening the state’s tourism and recreation industries and in sharing the message of Montana’s spectacular, unspoiled nature and vibrant, charming towns. Nominations were reviewed by a panel of industry peers.

As we face this new challenging time together, it’s important to recognize some of the people and organizations that have made Montana’s tourism and recreation industries the economic drivers they have long been,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “This year, we celebrate the 2020 Tourism Award winners in new ways and recognize that the strength of these people and industries is their ability to adapt as we look toward the future and remind visitors and residents alike that Montana is ‘Worth the Wait.’”

The 2020 Montana Tourism Award winners are:

  • Tourism Legacy Award: Marysue Costello and Gayle Fisher are the co-winners of this award which recognizes an individual with significant, life-long contributions to the tourism, hospitality, and recreation industries, identified as a leader and change agent among their peers, communities, and industry.
  • Tourism Ambassador: Diane Medler
  • Outstanding Tourism Volunteer: Todd Hunkler 
  • Marketing Campaign of the Year: Montana tourism regions Glacier Country Tourism and Yellowstone Country Montana for their “Glaciers to Geysers” campaign. 
  • Montana Tourism Private-Public Collaboration:Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy for their work together to reconstruct the iconic Sperry Chalet. 
  • Heritage and Cultural Tourism Award: Blue Heaven Ranch 
  • Film Friendly Community: Livingston

To read the full press release, click here. Stay tuned as we feature more about the winners in the coming weeks. 

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.  

Local Food Impact Calculator

When you buy local agricultural products your purchase supports the local economy and helps create jobs! The case for local agriculture has never been stronger. When you buy local: money stays in the community, family farms and ranches remain intact, and fresh, healthy food is affordable.

A Local Food Impact Calculator, created by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, aims to demonstrate the impact of buying locally grown and raised grocery items. Fill out their interactive calculators and share with your friends to spread the word about the many reasons to buy local!

ExportMontana Hosts Training

Join us for summer export training! The ExportMontana team will host "Riddle of the Exporter" training in Billings on July 28 and Kalispell on July 30. The training is free and will help members learn about and prepare for export markets. 

To register for the training, click here. For questions, contact Angelyn DeYoung at 406.841.2783 or

Tribal Tourism

A Message from Commerce and the Indian Tourism Region

While some businesses and outdoor recreation sites reopen, tribal nations across Montana continue to restrict nonessential travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In consultation with tribal government representatives and small business owners, the Indian Tourism Region will support tribal directives regarding nonessential travel in Indian Country by suspending all tribal tourism marketing this summer tourism season.

While the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development reminds travelers Montana Is Worth the Wait, statewide tourism marketing campaigns also will exclude imagery of events and locations in Indian Country this summer tourism season. has been updated with information related to the closures of tribal lands.

We’re encouraging our partners to do the same as much as possible.

The Indian Tourism Region represents the diverse Native American peoples and landscapes in Montana to maximize the economic impact of tourism for tribal communities, but we understand the continued safety of native populations is the highest priority.

In the meantime, we’re helping to connect our tribal tourism constituents with the resources to weather these difficult times. Tribal enterprises and tribal member-owned businesses are eligible to apply for the Business Stabilization Grant. We encourage you to share this opportunity with others in your community.

We will continue to monitor the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, and when the time is right, we look forward to helping tribes welcome visitors back into their communities.

Cultural/Heritage News

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

It’s been one year since the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail was extended 1,200 additional miles connecting the eastern section of the nation to St. Louis and the rest of the trail.

The Trail, administered by the National Park Service, is now more than 4,900 miles long, traversing 16 states, including Montana, and many tribal lands, along the historic route of the expedition. More than 300 places have been added to the trail’s website which serves as an online travel guide.

The site also aggregates user-generated content showcasing things to do and places to visit that have been nominated by residents along the Trail. An interactive map allows visitors seeking locally focused, out-of-the-ordinary travel experiences in Montana and along the historic trail to easily navigate and plan their stops along the way. There’s no cost to be listed on the trail. But, the rewards are plenty as it will be a resource to attract travelers, especially those in the drive market as they plan their long awaited adventures.

Tourism partners are invited to sign up as community advocates and stewards for their towns and counties along the historic trail. For more information on how to participate in the Community Partner Program that assists with economic development through tourism, click here. Additional marketing and promotional resources will be provided at no cost to partners starting in June.


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.

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


WhitefishCommunity Update Video
The City of Whitefish has issued a new community update video from Dana Smith, City Manager, related to Governor Bullock's announcement that moves Montana into Phase Two of the "Reopening the Big Sky plan, and lifts the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers, on June 1, 2020.


ITRR has released a new report: 2019 Nonresident Visitation, Expenditures & Ecomomic Impact Estimates

A collection of 2019 full year and quarterly estimates of nonresident visitation, expenditures by nonresident travelers, and economic impact estimates, including expenditures by purpose of trip, airport of arrival, and international visitors.

Highlights of the report include:

  • In 2019, nonresident visitors to Montana spent an estimated $3.76 billion in the state. 
  • This $3.76 billion in local spending directly supports $3.19 billion of economic activity in the state, and supports an additional $2.23 billion of economic activity, indirectly. 
  • The estimated total contribution of nonresident spending to Montana's economy was $5.42 billion in 2019.

To read the full report, click here

Funding Resources

$123 Million Now Available in Emergency Grants

Families, small businesses, non-profits, health services centers and individuals across Montana hardest-hit by impacts of COVID-19 are 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

  • Montana Innovation Grant Program

  • Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program

  • Social Services Nonprofit Grants

  • Emergency Housing Assistance Program

See a complete list of new grant programs, eligibility requirements and apply at


Rural and Tribal Community Funding

Montana Community Foundation (MCF) and Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA) have partnered to create and administer the Montana COVID–19 Fund. This statewide fund will provide safety-net funding for Montana's rural and tribal communities adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund will specifically support those communities that do not have established community-specific funds. The fund will grant directly to nonprofit intermediary organizations (community foundations, United Ways, etc.) and rural tribal communities for re-granting in the areas identified by the Montana COVID-19 Fund Steering Committee. For more information, click here

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. The  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 (North American Invasive Species Management Association) Annual Conference (Virtual)—The 2020 NAISMA Annual Conference will be held on a virtual platform rather than our traditional in-person meeting in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

This year’s virtual conference will be presented live during the conference dates. Sessions will also be recorded for post-event attendee access. Attendees will be able to log in to view presentations for up to 1 year after the event. To learn more, click here