Friday Flash 5/29/2020

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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.

Tourism Partner Resources

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

Governor Bullock Announces Additional Support for Destination Communities and Small Businesses Heading into Phase 2

Governor Steve Bullock Thursday announced further efforts to protect communities heading into Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky Plan on June 1, including additional resources for community testing and contact tracing in high-visitation communities, an informational campaign to educate visitors on responsible travel, and a grant program for small businesses across the state to implement safety measures.

As we enter the next phase of Montana’s reopening, we are asking the same of our visitors as we do from Montanans – heed state and local guidelines, engage in public health precautions, and exercise patience as tourism communities gradually welcome visitors back,” Governor Bullock said. “We must all continue to work together to ensure that we can move forward together, while protecting our residents and businesses alike.”

Governor Bullock also announced that he sent a letter to Yellowstone National Park’s Superintendent Cam Sholly requesting that the park reopen access to and from the park to visitors at the Cooke City, Gardiner, and West Yellowstone gates effective June 1.

I appreciate the coordination that Yellowstone National Park has provided with state and local officials as we’ve developed a reopening approach that more fully integrates the needs of Montana’s gateway communities,” said Governor Bullock. “We will continue to ensure that we remain in close coordination with the park and the surrounding communities to create an effective early warning system that can serve to protect workers and visitors alike, inside and outside the park.”

In addition to encouraging businesses in high-use, highly trafficked areas to develop plans to implement safety measures for employees and customers, the state will be providing support to destination communities in the following ways:

  • Implementing community snapshot testing for frontline workers at no cost with need determined by local jurisdictions.
  • Providing resources to local providers for community testing to develop an early warning system for identifying new cases.
  • Assistance with contact tracing in the event of a positive test. Montana National Guard members currently on Title 32 orders have been directed to take online contact tracing course and obtain a certificate, adding an additional 150 contact tracers if needed.
  • Offering financial assistance for safety measures to small businesses to better protect their customers and workers.
  • Public education outreach campaign, including resources for communities, tourism promotion organizations, employers and employees.

Utilizing Montana Department of Commerce data, destination communities were determined through analysis of typical visitor travel in the state over the period from June-September looking at the top destination counties, as well as those counties that experience high visitation per resident. Those counties are: Cascade, Ravalli, Lewis and Clark, Flathead, Yellowstone, Missoula, Silver Bow, Sanders, Lake, Custer, Gallatin, Dawson, Carbon, Big Horn, Glacier, Madison, Beaverhead, Park, Mineral, and Richland. Other counties will be eligible based on identified needs.

Beginning Monday, June 1, additional financial assistance through two new programs will be available to protect workers in Montana’s travel destination communities and at other small businesses throughout the state, as well as to educate travelers about the public health and safety measures they are expected to follow to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Montana.

The two new programs join the nine grant programs funded through the CARES Act and announced earlier this month, as well as the state’s suite of existing support services and direct federal appropriations.

The Montana Business Adaptation Program will provide reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and businesses safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small businesses must be Montana-based, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since Feb. 15 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing. Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000. Eligible costs include communications tools, remote work equipment, business adaptations required to allow for better cleaning and social distancing, cleaning supplies, and travel/hotel costs related to quarantining workers.

The Tourism Education Program will make available $15 million in CARES Act funding to carry out a statewide informational campaign to educate visitors prior to and after arriving in Montana. The Department of Commerce, in coordination with the Department of Public Health and Human Services, is leading this effort. Commerce will be working with local tourism partners across the state to deliver this public health and safety message to visitors.

A comprehensive information resource and application portal is available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV. The application for the Business Adaptation Program will be available on Monday, June 1.

Responsible Tourism Messaging

As Governor Steve Bullock announced this week, the Department of Commerce is partnering with the Department of Public Health and Human Services to make sure a responsible tourism message is delivered to out-of-state visitors before they arrive, and once they’re here.

This will be a multi-phased campaign that starts with a simple public-health-focused message. We’re asking partners across Montana to help spread this message over the next two weeks as the state slowly starts to reopen its doors to visitors.

Here’s what you’ll see from Visit Montana on our social media channels during the next two weeks:

  1. Know before you go: Know the local public health guidelines before arriving at your destination
  2. Stay home if you’re sick: Montana has the lowest rate of infection in the nation, we want to keep it that way
  3. Understand some services and destinations may be limited

In the coming days we will coordinate an integrated campaign for visitors with Convention and Visitor Bureau’s (CVBs) and Montana’s nonprofit Tourism Regions.

Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of May 25 from Destination Analysts

American travelers continue a slow march towards feeling safer, but the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the industry’s future—far worse than what was seen in the Great Recession.

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • American travelers continue a slow march towards feeling safer.
  • The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the industry’s future, with significant declines in American travel intentions, spending and sentiments from January 2020—and worse than what was seen in the Great Recession.
  • Air travel, non-private transportation and indoor attractions are seen as the least safe aspects of the common travel journey.
  • A majority of travelers still do not yet feel that either a hotel or Airbnb/vacation home rental experience are safe right now.
  • Only 5.9% reported taking a Memorial Day weekend trip.
  • Younger travelers will very likely be key to many destinations’ and travel providers’ recovery.

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.
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • June 8, 2020—TAC Meeting via GoToWebinar—For meeting agenda and other information, visit MARKETMT.COM/TourismAdvisoryCouncil
  • 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 

The annual Montana Tourism Awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that strengthen Montana's tourism and recreation industries and thereby contribute to maximizing its economic impact for Montana residents.

Members of the public are invited to nominate deserving individuals and groups in five of the six award categories. For the Film Friendly Community award, nominees and the winner are selected by the Montana Film Office based on their assistance and support of a specific project or projects filmed in their communities.

A panel of judges representing the various regions of the state select the top four finalists in each category of which one is named the winner. This year’s judges were: Pat Doyle, Montana State Parks; Billie LeDeau, Office of Indian Country Economic Development; Bill McGladdery, Town Pump Corporation; Dax Schieffer, Voices of Montana Tourism and Jan Stoddard, Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development.

In past years, the winners have been revealed at the live awards ceremony held in conjunction with the annual Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation. Unable to do so in 2020, award-winners were notified and a public announcement was made on May 19.

Therefore, additional information about each recipient and the finalists in each category will be highlighted in the Friday Flash over the next few weeks. Winners have received a letter of congratulations from Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice and will also receive an award plaque designed and crafted by Made in Montana member Countyline C&C.


2020 Tourism Ambassador of the Year – Diane Medler of Kalispell 

This is the "industry achievement award" for a Montana tourism professional. It is to be awarded to an individual to recognize his/her history of dedication and significant positive contributions to tourism and recreation at the community, regional or statewide levels. Judges evaluated nominees using the following criteria:

  • Collaboration with other tourism partners and professionals
  • Education of others regarding the Montana Brand, the economic impact of Montana's tourism industry and the sharing of resources available to strengthen tourism and recreation
  • Employment of creative and innovative approaches to their work
  • Enhancement of Montana’s image at the regional, national or global scales
  • Leadership and inspiration

Diane received multiple nominations and all concurred that she exemplifies a history of dedication and positive contribution to tourism in Montana. She was responsible for bringing some of the major non-resident tourism events into the Kalispell area over the past few years.

The Montana Spartan race brings in nearly 10,000 competitors every May and has been featured on NBC Sports. Never one to rest on her laurels, she launched the Montana Indoor Soccer Tournament bringing in about 50 teams from across Montana, the Brash Winter Rodeo series, Flathead Mountain Bike Races, and the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo. Many of these events take place during less popular tourism times of the year, making Kalispell a year-round destination. Under Medler’s leadership, hotel revenues in the Kalispell area have increased 11% per year for the past 10 years. She extends her leadership across the region and the entire state working with various partners to elevate the tourism and recreation industry.

While there is no end to the good that Diane does for Kalispell, she is also worthy of recognition as Montana's Tourism Ambassador of the Year because of her unwavering commitment to promoting her region and state as a whole. Diane is an extremely bright member of our tourism universe. Montana, and especially Kalispell, is lucky to have her lighting the way.

We'd also like to acknowledge the other nominees in this category and thank them for all they do for Montana tourism: 

  • Marysue Costello, West Yellowstone 
  • Leslie Fiegel, Livingston 
  • Gayle Fisher, Great Falls 
  • Erica Kimble, Billings 
  • Christopher Kortlander, Garryowen 

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As Montana reopens, we encourage you to support your local Taste our Place establishments by ordering takeout, delivery or dining in. 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.  

Montana Film News

The Last Beyond

The Last Beyond” a Montana-Made film 14 years in the making, is available this week. Featuring Stephen Small Salmon and Noah Watts, two of our outstanding native actors, it’s a story set in the beginnings of the Great Depression. You’ll recognize many familiar places around Livingston, Montana. For more information, click here

Tribal Tourism

American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Scholarship Applications Available

Interested in a career in the hospitality and tourism industry?
AIANTA is proud to offer the Tourism & Hospitality Scholarship, which provides American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students with financial assistance towards a degree or certificate in hospitality, tourism, recreation, culinary arts or related fields.

Each year, AIANTA awards three individuals who have met all scholarship application criteria. Students are awarded $500 per semester (fall and spring semester only). Each student can earn a maximum award of $1,000 over two semesters. Deadline to apply is Friday, July 3, 2020 (funding will be applied during the Fall 2020 semester.)

Application Criteria:

  • Must be of American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian descent (student must show documentation).
  • Must be a high school senior or a student accepted into an accredited higher education institution at the time of application.
  • Must submit a letter of acceptance from a college/university or technical/vocational institution.
  • Must be enrolled as a part-time or full-time student.
  • A minimum GPA of 2.5 is recommended, although all current or future undergraduate and graduate college students are encouraged to apply.
  • Scholarship recipients must maintain a 2.5 GPA.
  • Scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students only; online colleges are acceptable.
  • Scholarships must be used for books and/or tuition.

Applicants must fill out the online scholarship application to be considered. 

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.

Outdoor Recreation

Yellowstone National Park will Open its Montana Entrances on Monday, June 1 at 10 a.m.

The Montana entrances include West Entrance (near West Yellowstone), North Entrance (near Gardiner), and Northeast Entrance (near Cooke City). The opening of Montana’s entrances coincides with the Governor’s lifting of out-of-state travel restrictions and will provide visitor access to all five entrances of Yellowstone National Park. Read full press release here

COVID-19 and Invasive Species Programs Webinar

The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) and the Western Governors' Association (WGA) are co-hosting a webinar focusing on similarities of the COVID-19 virus and invasive species on June 3rd, 2020 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. (MST).

The impacts of COVID-19 to terrestrial and aquatic invasive species programs as well as adopting field work to physical distancing and safety requirements will be explored. You can register for the webinar by clicking here


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.


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

Coronavirus Relief Fund 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 ten new programs created in response to the emergency.

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

  • NEW: Montana Business Adaptability Program
  • 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

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