Friday Flash 6/19/2020

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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 New Loan Deferment Program for Montana Businesses

Bullock also announces additional support to increase state census count.

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock announced Wednesday, the creation of a loan deferment program to assist Montana businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Montana Loan Deferment Program will allow businesses and other entities to defer payments on existing loans for six to 12 months and free up a significant amount of otherwise dedicated capital for the borrower to leverage on a monthly basis. If a borrower is approved for the program, Coronavirus relief funds will be used to provide payments to participating lenders to cover interest payments for six-to-twelve months, up to 6 percent or $150, 000.

Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, we’ve been able to consider and begin meeting the needs across all sectors of the economy and in all corners of the state,” Governor Bullock said. “The funds we’ve distributed have gotten Montanans back to work, stabilized businesses, provided a safety net for individuals, and jumpstarted industries while considering what support should be available to ensure long term sustainability.”

Governor Bullock is directing $125 million to the program with $25 million specifically dedicated to hotels and restaurants and the remaining $100 million dedicated to other eligible borrowers.

The amount currently dedicated to this program could help defer between 5,000 and 10,000 loans and free up capital to bring stability for businesses and other entities in the long term.

This program will provide a much needed lifeline to many Montana small businesses to help them recover from the impact of COVID-19 and allow them to get stronger for the future,” said Randy Chesler, CEO of Glacier Bancorp.

This program will not only provide much needed relief to Montana businesses, it will do so in a way that allows the state’s banks to mitigate risks in the marketplace. Montana’s community banks have stepped up in a big way and will continue to do so through this program in order to help the people of Montana get through this crisis,” said Andy West, President of Eagle Bank in Polson.

To be eligible, borrowers must have experienced a 25 percent reduction in gross revenue due to COVID-19. The borrower must also not have access to 12 months of working capital from any other source and be actively registered with the Secretary of State to do business in Montana. The full eligibility criteria are available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

The program will be jointly administered by the Board of Investments and the Department of Revenue. Borrowers will apply through their existing lender, which will submit the application to the Board of Investments and Revenue for review and payment if approved. Recipients will be listed on the transparency website that is updated weekly.

For businesses seeking access to new capital, the state is currently developing a program that will assist those with needs for new capital.

Governor Bullock also announced he is allocating $530,000 to the Department of Commerce to promote the Census through October 31, the new deadline for completing the decennial count.

We know an accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state for education, highways, health care and over 300 other programs,” Governor Bullock said. “This funding will support the state over the long term and ensure we do everything we can to get a complete count and our fair share of federal funding over the next decade.”

While the federal government is tasked with counting all households every 10 years, the state supports the effort to educate and promote the importance of the Census. The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, which put Montana’s response rate below the national average. An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state, it shapes local voting districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The following programs have been created in under two months using funding through $1.25 billion in federal emergency relief funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:

  • Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant, Montana Department of Agriculture
  • Montana Business Adaptation Program, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Montana Business Stabilization Program, Montana Department of Commerce
  • Montana Innovation Grant Program, Governor’s Office of Economic Development
  • Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program, Montana Department of Agriculture
  • Local Government Reimbursement Program
  • Emergency Housing Assistance Program, Montana Department of Commerce
  • Public Health Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services,
  • Stay Connected Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
  • Food Bank and Food Pantry Assistance, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
  • Social Services Nonprofit Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
  • Telework Assistance Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

Apply Here

More than $30 million has gone to Montanans and Montana businesses impacted by COVID-19. To find the transparency webpage and learn more about where the funds are going, go to COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative:
An Invitation to Businesses to Partner in an Early Warning System for Tourism and Gateway Communities

Building from surveillance testing efforts at long term care facilities, with Tribal Nations and with front-line health care workers, the State is pursuing more frequent and widespread COVID-19 testing in order to support businesses and the tourism sector as they reopen in Montana.  The State, in concert with local public health officials, is actively recruiting partnerships with businesses in tourism destination areas to begin voluntary testing of employees who may have frequent interactions with nonresident travelers through the course of their work. The effort, known as Community Snapshot Testing, aims to develop an early warning system for a COVID-19 outbreak through one of the major risk factors facing the state—travel. This increase in testing will not only augment efforts to identify cases early and support COVID-19 response and mitigation measures, it will build a foundation that will better prepare businesses for possible increased exposure that may occur in the future.  

Governor Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky plan has relied on individuals and businesses to provide leadership in adopting measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks. As a result, Montana enjoys one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the nation, allowing for the state to proceed with reopening and welcoming back visitors who are critical to our economy. Just as the Governor has asked residents to support local businesses by offering them more than their patronage – he is also asking our state’s visitors to do all they can to respect the decisions Montana businesses make to protect themselves, their employees, and the public.


  • Snapshot Testing Toolkit for Businesses 
    • Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative Brochure
    • Facility plan for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting
    • Information about asymptomatic testing 

Request a Testing Event 

Montana Department of Emergency Services
Statewide Emergency Coordination Center

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of June 15 from Destination Analysts

As Americans begin to travel again, many are feeling drawn to destinations they are familiar with, rather than the siren of exploration.

Key Findings to Know

  • Expectations about the virus’ course have dampened.
  • Still, nearly 70 percent will take at least one leisure trip this year.
  • The majority of American travelers feel they are informed about potential Coronavirus-related risks involved with traveling.
  • American travelers generally give a thumbs up to the hotel and airline industries’ communication about measures they are taking to protect consumers.
  • Some 4 in 10 American travelers remain lacking in confidence that they can travel safely in the current environment.
  • A majority of Americans who will be traveling in 2020 say they will avoid crowded destinations.
  • Many travelers are feeling drawn to destinations they are familiar with, rather than the siren of exploration.
  • Poor “pandemic etiquette” behavior, which is then outed in media, will indeed adversely affect the desirability of and aspiration for travel destinations.

As a number of coronavirus outbreaks have recently emerged, expectations about the virus’ course in the United States have dampened. The optimism gap has widened again, with more Americans expecting the situation to get worse and fewer expecting it will get better. Some travelers that thought they would take trips this year have walked that back for now—this week there is an uptick in Americans saying they have no plans to travel in 2020 (although, about 70 percent still say they will take at least one leisure trip this year).

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
  • 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.

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. 

Sperry Chalet

Montana Tourism Public + Private Collaboration Award—Glacier National Park + Glacier National Park Conservancy

This award acknowledges the collaboration of private and public partners whose joint work enhances the Montana tourism industry by providing innovative and sustainable tourism products, solutions or strategies that have identifiable and measurable results.

Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy exemplify the great potential of public-private partnerships. These organizations collaborated to make possible the reconstruction of the historic Sperry Chalet, after it was tragically destroyed in the 2017 Sprague fire.

The Sperry Chalet is an important icon of the chalet system built by the Great Northern Railway in the early 20th century and represents early tourism in Glacier Country. Two of the original chalets still operate in Glacier Park, offering tourists of today a very similar backcountry experience to that enjoyed by park visitors over a century ago. The chalets provide a unique Montana experience, and without the collaborative effort between the Park and Conservancy, it may have been lost forever.

After the fire, all that remained of the hotel building were four exterior rock walls. Jeff Mow, Superintendent of the Park, and Doug Mitchell, Executive Director of the Conservancy, worked quickly to plan and execute a stabilization effort, which ensured the walls remained standing after the harsh winter season. In four short weeks, the Conservancy raised $100,000 to make the stabilization project possible. The nimbleness of the Conservancy and the generosity of donors allowed for a timely response that would not have been possible for Glacier Park working alone. Likewise, the expertise and craftsmanship of dedicated Park staff were critical to making the stabilization project successful.

Although most of the project’s budget was comprised of allocated federal dollars, the Conservancy connected with 1,261 Sperry donors to raise a total of $709,309 to fill in funding gaps. Throughout the process, the Park and Conservancy worked closely to ensure the project was completed on time and on budget.

Another important role the Conservancy played was that of liaison between the project and the public. Following the Sprague fire, there was a tremendous outpouring of grief over the loss of Sperry Chalet. Coverage of the story in the news media drew a lot of attention, and the Park and the Conservancy worked closely to craft appropriate messaging. The Conservancy also arranged winter over-flights to capture the status of the building during the winter seasons and arranged for photographs during the summer building seasons, to capture the historic reconstruction process. The Park and Conservancy also co-hosted several public meetings throughout the planning and construction phases to foster community involvement.

The public-private partnership between the Park and Conservancy in the reconstruction of the iconic Sperry Chalet demonstrates what is possible when government agencies and non-profit partners work together to preserve and protect the natural resources that make Montana a unique tourist destination for adventurous travelers from around the world. Thanks to this collaborative effort, the chalet experience will continue to inspire future generations of Glacier Park visitors.

We'd also like to acknowledge the top finalists in the category: 

  • City of Whitefish + Whitefish Legacy Partners
  • Department of Natural Resources & Conservation/Stillwater Unit + Action Rentals
  • Real Bird Reenactment, Crow Nation + Custer Battlefield Museum
  • Yellowstone Country Montana + Wade Holland Media

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.  



MOTBD has added TripAdvisor ratings to the tourism listings on TripAdvisor is the industry standard for ratings to lodging, dining and attractions. These ratings will bring a level of credibility to our listings that the State itself, as a DMO, cannot.

At launch, we were able to associate about 17% of our listings with TripAdvisor ratings. We need the help of all our tourism partners in the state to get the message out to our tourism businesses that TripAdvisor ratings are available to them. Any business listed on VisitMT can log in to  BUSINESS.VISITMT.COM and add their Tripadvisor ID.

A business can find their TripAdvisor ID by searching for their business on TripAdvisor. They can simply copy a portion of the URL for their business’ TripAdvisor listing, the numbers following the “-d” in the URL. From the example below it would be “20004638.”

Enter this number into a new field labeled ,”Trip Advisor Location ID” in their business listing on BUSINESS.VISITMT.COM. Businesses can also manage their TripAdvisor listings at TRIPADVISOR.COM/OWNERS and claim their listing.

Visit Montana Visitor Education Campaign

As Montana slowly opens up, the health and safety of our residents and visitors is our top priority. If you’re planning to explore our beautiful state, please take precautions to help keep others safe. Make sure you know your destination’s local public health guidelines before you arrive. Some destinations and services could be limited. If you are sick, stay home and travel at a later time. We promise the adventures will be worth the wait. See examples below of some of our social media posts. For the most up to date information on visiting Montana, go to VISITMT.COM.

Visit MT

Visit MT Opening

Montana Film News

"Yellowstone" Season 3 Premieres Sunday, June 21, on the Paramount Network

Montana is a beautiful backdrop to "Yellowstone," Paramount's drama series starring Kevin Costner. Click below to see the official trailer.

Yellowstone Season 3

Discovery Sets "Dino Hunters" Series For June Premiere

Discovery has set "Dino Hunters", its new docuseries about the hunt for prehistoric dinosaur fossils, to premiere at 9 p.m. June 19 (tonight!) on Discovery Channel. The program hails from from Half Yard Productions, a Red Arrow Studios company.

"Dino Hunters" focuses on a group of ranchers and cowboys in the badlands of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas who are uncovering valuable dinosaur bones on their land and using the discoveries to help save their livelihoods with a possible payday that could be worth millions. But if they are unable to excavate the finds before the harsh winter bears down, they risk losing the fossils to erosion, turning their potential fortune to dust. Their finds range from T-Rexes and Triceratops to a Nanotyrannosaur, a rare and disputed dinosaur species that may have scientific impact well beyond the series. Read more from Deadline here. Click below to watch the promo video. 

Dino Hunters

Tribal News

Montana Is Open, But For Now The Blackfeet Nation Is Closed

Montana has one of the country's lowest coronavirus infection rates and is welcoming tourists back again. Earlier this month, it dropped a two-week quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors put in place in March. But not everyone is on board with the decision.

The Blackfeet Nation, whose reservation borders Glacier National Park, is maintaining a two-week quarantine order and lodging restrictions for non-residents. Restrictions are set to expire at the end of the month, but tribal leaders have already extended them once and could do so again. That uncertainty has businesses dependent on the roughly $110 million local tourism economy looking for ways to survive until next season. Read more from KPBS here

Outdoor Recreation

As the National Parks Reopen, Remember to #RecreateResponsibly

America’s adventurers got some welcome news recently as the National Park Service (NPS) entered its next phase of reopening. The agency will work alongside park superintendents and state officials to reopen parks that are deemed safe—beginning with open-space parks that allow for convenient social distancing.

Rejoice, but don’t forget to heed the NPS’s guidance and #RecreateResponsibly.

What does #RecreateResponsibly mean?

Just as U.S. Travel issued guidance for the travel industry to promote the health of customers and employees, the NPS has its own tips to allow visitors to enjoy the parks responsibly:

  • Know before you go. Visit for current park conditions and availability of restrooms and other facilities. Make a plan, follow the 10 Essentials, and if you are sick, stay home.
  • Keep it close. Follow the state and county orders governing the open status of the area you’re considering visiting. The NPS is working closely with governors and state and local health departments as we increase access and services across the National Park System.
  • Keep your distance. Recreate with the people in your household. Give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail, at a boat launch, or in a parking lot. Follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines for staying six feet away from others. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth if you’re near others.
  • Know your limits. Postpone challenging hikes or trying new activities while first responders, parks, and communities continue to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.
  • Keep it with you. If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas.

Read more from the U.S. Travel Association here

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

Montana/Various Locations—COVID-19 Testing Sites Opening In Montana Tourism Hotspots—COVID-19 testing sites are starting to open in tourism hotspots as Montana begins its Community Snapshot Testing Initiative. The program is part of the state’s effort to detect outbreaks early as it welcomes back out-of-state visitors.

Flathead Community Health Center nurse Kristin Melli walks me through the testing protocol at a newly opened community snapshot testing site just outside of Glacier National Park. I take a swab and rub it in each nostril before it’s put into a tube.

The Health Center’s Hilary Naleway is organizing the effort locally. “We’re kind of trying to get a snapshot of our community, especially those communities that are high-tourist areas, so Glacier National Park, Whitefish,” she said. 

Several testing sites to capture snapshots of tourism areas have popped up in Billings, Great Falls and Butte-Silverbow County, among others. Montana Disaster and Emergency Services says new sites are starting up frequently. Read more from MTPR here.

Montana/Paws Up ResortWorldwise: Beloved Houston Chef Chris Shepherd On Making the Perfect Ribs, Montana Dreams, and MoreHoustonians adore chef Chris Shepherd. They look forward, say, to dinners at his imaginative steakhouse, Georgia James, where a cast-iron ribeye shares the menu with smoked pork ravioli and Viet-Cajun roasted oysters, and they relish plunking made-in-house pretzels into queso blanco while chilling out at the Hay Merchant. The James Beard Award-winning Shepherd, chef/owner of the city’s small Underbelly Hospitality empire, fiercely loves them back.

In sharing a few of his favorite things, Shepherd included this: As soon as it’s safe to travel I want to go to... Montana. We took one of our best vacations there a few years ago. I’m actually booked to cook at the Resort at Paws Up in October, so we’ll see if that still happens. I love that part of the country. Read more from Barron's PENTA blog here.

WhitefishWhitefish Launches Campaign Promoting Responsible TourismAs out-of-town visitors return to Whitefish, there is a new campaign that aims to promote responsible tourism.

The Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau is working alongside the city of Whitefish to provide out-of-town guests and local business the resources and tools needed to handle tourism safely.

The new campaign, “Clean, Careful, Connected,” reminds visitors and businesses to practice frequent handwashing, comply with 6-feet social distancing, wear a cloth mask when in large groups and remain connected by staying up to date on new information from

As Montana has reopened to out-of-state visitors as of June 1, we have been now shifting into a mode of careful togetherness. So we are asking our travelers who we are welcoming into our community here in Whitefish to partner with us and be safety first and travel responsibly“ said Dylan Boyle, executive director of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Read more from NBC Montana 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.

Other News

The Importance of DMOs in a Crisis

The preliminary findings of the Destination Analysts survey of more than 12,000 users of 60+ official destination marketing organization websites are now available. The survey demonstrates how valuable these official resources are to a wide variety of audiences during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. This research also highlights the content most sought by travelers right now. To read the executive summary, click here.

Summer of the Road Trip: Tips for Staying Safe

As warm weather signals summer’s nearing presence, it’s hard not to have vacation on the mind. But with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting vacation plans, many are looking for an alternative way to spend their summer -- and for some that means hitting the open road.

Tourism industry experts have proclaimed this as the summer of the road trip. And with a piqued interest in road tripping comes a boost in RV rentals and purchases. RV Share, a national RV rental service similar to Airbnb, has seen a 1,000% increase in RV rental bookings as of May 19 from early April. Read more from the Bemidji Pioneer here.

Canada, U.S. Extend Border Restrictions to July 21

Canada and the US have agreed to extend their agreement to keep their border closed to non-essential travel to July 21 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday’s agreement extends the closure by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April and May.

This is a decision that will protect people on both side of the border as we continue to fight COVID-19,” Trudeau said. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here.

Airbnb Launches Campaign to Support Domestic Travel & Local Economic Growth

Airbnb last week announced a pair of initiatives to support local travel and economic growth: a series of partnerships with destinations around the world, and Go Near, a new initiative to support local economies through local travel. The initiatives come as the travel industry takes initial steps to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the travel industry, including Airbnb, has been hit hard by COVID-19 and there will continue to be tremendous uncertainty, our booking data shows that travel is beginning to bounce back and new survey research has identified a series of trends that will shape travel in the weeks and months to come. The following details the steps we are taking to work with local communities and best serve hosts and guests around the world based on the trends we are seeing. Read more from Airbnb here.

Funding Resources

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)—Spotlight is a 2.5 day tourism conference with educational seminars, networking functions, site-seeing tours and a supplier trade show. Attendance will consist of 30-35 QUALIFIED group tour operators and buyers (coming from all over the US and Canada) along with about 25-30 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