Friday Flash 6/26/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Please note: There will be no Friday Flash on July 3, 2020. We wish everyone a safe and wonderful 4th of July! 

Wildfire Updates

The Montana Department of Commerce will again provide relevant wildfire updates for tourism partners and the traveling public at our webpage TRAVELAWARE.MT.GOV. The page will be updated daily or as fire activity impacts popular destination areas.


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. 

COVID-19 Grant Program Updates

The Montana Business Adaptation Program provides reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and customers safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since March 1 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are eligible. Eligible expenses include costs related to communication, remote work equipment, cleaning supplies, tools to enhance social distancing and sanitation, travel and hotel costs related to quarantining workers. Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000. 

  • Note: The 50 employee cap has been removed from Business Adaptation 

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 $75 million, the maximum award amount per business is $10,000. 

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.

  • Note: The deadline to apply for Montana Innovation is July 1, 2020.

The Social Service Nonprofit Grant program provides 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. Current funding available is $10 million. 

Apply Here

The Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program has closed.

The Montana Loan Deferment Program is facilitated by Montana banks, credit unions, and lending institutions in partnership with the State of Montana. Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) will be used to provide payments to participating lenders to convert existing commercial loans to interest only status, with the result being an existing borrower will be able to defer principal and interest payments on existing loans for a period of 6 to 12 months, thereby freeing up a significant amount of otherwise-dedicated capital for the borrower on a monthly basis. 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.

Note: Interested businesses should apply for the loan program through their lender. Eligibility details are available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV 

Transparency Dashboard Updated Weekly

The state of Montana has launched a dynamic dashboard that shows the Coronavirus Relief Fund grants that have been awarded to businesses and nonprofits. This dashboard will be updated weekly until all grant dollars have been expended. 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of June 22 from Destination Analysts

Concerns about contracting COVID-19 have risen back up, but a majority of American travelers still plan to travel in this environment—even taking multiple trips in the remainder of this year. Meanwhile a perceived lack of appropriate pandemic-etiquette behaviors within their own communities is affecting people’s openness to tourists in town.

Key Findings to Know: 

With cases rising in several areas of the country, Americans concern about personally or friends/family contracting COVID-19 increased this week. Now half of American travelers feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the US in the next month and less than 20% feel it will get better. Americans’ perceived safety of various travel activities also worsened this week, returning to the levels they were at 3 weeks ago, and this has caused some to reverse their travel readiness. However, the increase in outbreaks has not appeared to further rattle their sense of financial security, as concerns about the virus’ impact on their personal finances and the national economy decreased. Baby Boomers do not feel as threatened by the virus in terms of their personal finances, but have graver concerns about its effect on the national economy.

The disproportionate havoc the pandemic has wreaked on travel can be seen in what activities Americans have been committing their leisure time to relative to their pre-COVID 19 lifestyle priorities. Prior to the outbreak, 6 in 10 said that leisure travel was among their highest lifestyle priorities—only behind spending time with family. Yet only 12% report having done any leisure travel in the past month. Meanwhile, Americans have been busying themselves with activities that were far likelier to be a low priority in their lifestyles prior to COVID-19, from gardening to social media. 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. 

Blue Haven Ranch

Heritage & Cultural Award—Blue Haven Ranch in Hays

This award recognizes an institution, individual or organization for contributions to the promotion and celebration of Montana’s authentic and unique culture or natural history as an important attraction for visitors and Montana residents alike. Eligible nominees may include specific attractions (museums, historical or cultural attractions, libraries, events), individuals or organizations for extraordinary accomplishment in promoting the state's heritage and cultural assets.

In addition to providing an experience embedded with rich Montana history and culture, Blue Heaven Ranch is a family-owned business that collaborates with various partners, both private and public to extend the impact of visitors’ stays by contributing to community improvement while educating visitors about the culture and history. The judges commented that Blue Heaven Ranch is an excellent example for other businesses to follow.

Blue Heaven Guest Ranch is located south of Hays at the foothills of the beautiful Little Rocky Mountains on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Owned and Operated by Toby and Elizabeth “Liz” Werk, Blue Heaven welcomes guests from Germany to New York along with local youth and families. Guests have the opportunity to participate in local tours of culture sites, guided hunts, and Traditional Native Games.

As an outfitting guide, Toby has supported the Wounded Warrior Hunting Camp, whose mission is to honor wounded warriors returning home from active service, granted six antelope tags to wounded warriors throughout the United States. Hunters travel to Blue Heaven Guest Ranch from all areas of the world. Many come for the solitude of the ranch, a home-cooked meal and a grand hunting experience Toby has to offer.

The ranch also hosts local youth rodeos, basic horsemanship care, traditional horse painting, and riding lessons. The Werk Family opens their home to share the surrounding natural beauty through their White Clay, Métis, and ranching lifestyle.

Toby and Liz also run a non-profit youth equine program called Harnessing Hope. Harnessing Hope is dedicated to the cultural belief that the spirit of the horse empowers youth to find their inner strength, create a positive environment for native youth to experience a relationship with a horse surrounded by an encouraging atmosphere for positive growth. Toby has worked with the youth on the Fort Belknap Reservation carrying out leadership and suicide prevention the past 10 years. The experience has brought him to realize the importance of teaching strong leadership which in turn prevents suicide. He utilizes an alternative approach by teaching the youth to find themselves through Equine Therapy and Youth Leadership Development.

Elizabeth Werk, Agriculture Agent at Fort Belknap Extension, was recently named the recipient of the inaugural Montana Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (MACDEP) Community Impact Award for “her efforts and the value they bring to building capacity, resiliency and connections in the local community” -MACDEP President. Toby and Liz have three wonderful children that help their parents with the Guest Ranch and volunteering with Harnessing Hope.

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

  • Tippet Rise Art Center
  • The Philipsburg Theatre
  • Missoula Downtown Foundation

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As Montana is reopening, we encourage you to support your local businesses. If you are interested in locally sourced ingredients, check out this list of our Taste our Place members and savor Montana Flavor this summer. You can also find Made in Montana producers and retailers in your area by visiting  

Members Working Together to Bring you a Taste of Summer

Lewis and Clark Brewing is a Taste our Place member; committed to using Montana grown and made ingredients in their beverages.

Enjoy “Farm to Glass” with a new beverage from Lewis & Clark Brewing. Brewer’s H2O - Hoppy Craft Hard Seltzer is crafted with Montana sugar from Sidney Sugars and Montana grown and steam-distilled fresh Flathead Valley hops from Glacier Hops Ranch in Whitefish. Enjoy Brewer’s H20 on Tap at Lewis & Clark Taproom in Helena or in a can this summer. Read more about this new beverage from Lewis and Clark Brewing here



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.

Montana Film News

"Yellowstone" Season 3 Premiere Breaks Records

Yellowstone returned to Paramount for Season 3 after a ten-month hiatus, which left fans hanging on what would happen next after the rescue of Tate and death of Malcolm Beck. The third season premiere on June 21 proved that the long hiatus didn't cost Yellowstone its viewership at all. In fact, Yellowstone broke records with the Season 3 premiere with huge ratings that may set up Season 3 to be Yellowstone's biggest hit to date. And that's saying something!

The Season 3 premiere of Yellowstone attracted a total audience of 6.6 million viewers, ranking it as the most-watched cable premiere of 2020. The episode was also a hit in two major demographics, including the key 18-49 age range.

In the 18-49 demographic in Live+Same day calculations, Yellowstone began Season 3 with a 1.78 rating. The 1.78 marks a boost of 127% from last year's Season 2 premiere. No, that's not a typo. Yellowstone really rose by more than 120% in the most valued demographic after a ten-month hiatus! Read more from CinemaBlend here

Tribal News

Marketing Partnerships: Marketing to Re-emerging Travel

Travel is re-emerging—how will you market your cultural tourism destination or attraction to visitors as the impact of the pandemic moves to a reference point in history?

As the world begins to travel again after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, tribes must look strategically at the partnerships and tools available to bring visitors to explore tribal nations and their role in history and today.

In partnership with the National Park Service, AIANTA is working with tribes adjacent to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail to develop cultural heritage content and itineraries for the Trail's new travel website, as well as The project will bring together businesses, attractions, landmarks and other points of interest on and around the trail to help promote sustainable tourism.

Join AIANTA, the National Park Service and Solimar International for this one-hour webinar to learn how how to restart and reimagine your cultural tourism product. 

Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Time: 10:00 a.m. Mountain

To register for the webinar, click here

CSKT Social Media Campaign Aims To Educate Kids About COVID-19 Risks

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes launched a social media campaign last week aimed at local kids, who tribal leaders fear aren’t taking the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

Artie Mendoza, who also goes by the stage name KiidTruth, recently released a song as part of a campaign educating kids 12 and older on the Flathead Indian Reservation about COVID-19.

“So the campaign is a COVID-19 ... just spreading COVID-19 awareness for the younger generation, and just spreading a message of protecting our elders,” he said.

Tribal leaders are asking youth on the reservation to make dance challenge videos on social media platforms such as TikTok using hashtags like #fixyourmask and #protectourelders. The tribe is trying to get kids to take up the challenge by offering up prizes. Other artists are due to release their own COVID-19 songs as part of the campaign in the coming weeks. Read more from MTPR here.

Outdoor Recreation

Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program Accepting Proposals

Department of the Interior, United States (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning operates the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program. PFW Program regional and field staff work with partners to identify habitat conservation priorities and delineate geographic focus areas in their Regional strategic plans.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program provides direct technical assistance and financial assistance to private landowners to restore and conserve fish and wildlife habitat for the benefit of federal trust resources. Many PFW projects support tribal operations ensuring sovereignty means something.

Program priorities include restoring trust with local communities; modernizing infrastructure and fencing projects; hunting and fishing, including habitat preservation to support robust populations of wildlife for recreational use by the American public; the National Wildlife Refuge System, with a focus on conservation activities and projects on private lands near National Wildlife Refuge lands; and expanding priority habitats, reducing habitat fragmentation, establishing conservation buffers and providing wildlife movement corridors that result in self-sustaining systems.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through September 30, 2020. Applicants seeking technical or financial assistance from the PFW Program are requested to consult with the Regional PFW Program office BEFORE developing or submitting an application.

Travel Community Praises Passage of National Parks Bill

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement on Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957):

“Our national parks are more critical centers of travel and tourism than ever, and the Senate has done a very wise thing to prioritize this legislation to support their upkeep. In addition to the greatly positive impact on the infrastructure and maintenance needs at national parks, and this bill will also help protect the use of public lands for the travel- and tourism-dependent recreation industry.

“Data is showing conclusively that Americans are much more comfortable traveling by car and recreating outdoors as we continue to cope with the pandemic, which will make national parks very important leisure travel destinations for the foreseeable future.

“Given their vital role as drivers for the regional economies around them, national parks are cornerstones not only of America’s cultural and geographical heritage, but also of American prosperity. In 2019 alone, national parks welcomed 327 million visitors who contributed $41.7 billion to the economy and supported 340,500 jobs.

“We thank Sen. Gardner, Sen. Daines and Sen. Manchin for their leadership on this bill, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on measures to secure the future of our national parks for all Americans.”

Click here for more background on national parks issues from the U.S. Travel Association.

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

Dillon—Andrus Hotel Grand Opening Open House—The historic Andrus Hotel reopens to the public on July 1 with an Open House for residents of Dillon and all of Montana. Local residents have watched with great interest as new owner, Dr. John Micha spearheaded a complete renovation of this property which was a landmark a century ago and is now positioned to be the center of the Town of Dillon once again. The celebration is scheduled from 4 – 8 PM on July 1.

The Grand Opening will include fine food items, libations and tours of the property led by staff. There will be a drawing for a 2-night luxury stay in one of the Andrus Hotel’s finest suites.

There is a lot of history that took place at the Andrus Hotel – if those walls could talk they would tell stories of the families who frequented the hotel; the Andrus Sisters descending the stairway in the latest fashion, men gathering to play cards in the afternoon in what was known as the “Andrus Lounge”.

The Montana Standard Newspaper stated in an article from 1979 “The Andrus "was quite a noted spot," the paper said. "Most of the business done in Beaverhead and Madison Counties was transacted there." Myrle Erwin, who was a stenographer, had a desk in the lobby and would write up the contracts right there on the spot. The Andrus Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Descendants of Harry Andrus were instrumental in the renovation of the Hotel. Andrus built the hotel in 1916 for a cost of $165,000. The rooftop patio is named after Donna Andrus Jones; granddaughter of Harry Andrus who designed the modern-day hotel.

Dr. John Micha, present owner of the Andrus, has relatives in the area who he visited from childhood. He fell in love with SW Montana and has been spending time in Dillon for many years. Originally coming to fly fish, he quickly became interested in promoting economic growth in the area. This interest led to the 7-year project of renovating the Andrus Hotel and opening it for business. This is the culmination of Dr. Micha’s dream of seeing the hotel brought to life.

The suites at the Andrus Hotel are all located on the penthouse level of the hotel which is only accessible to hotel guests via the elevator. All suites are apartment suites and include top of the line furnishings, king-sized beds, linens and amenities. Suites are studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom with kitchen facilities included. A full-time concierge is on staff to assist guests with arrangements for dinner, activities and tours and even grocery shopping!

The Andrus Hotel looks forward to welcoming travelers to Dillon for overnight stays and members of the local community to use the Board Room for meetings and special occasions. Please call 406.925.5024 or visit their website for additional information and bookings.

PolsonLocal Businesses get Pandemic Creative—When the state of Montana was under a stay-at-home order, businesses around the area deemed “non-essential” went dark as part of the effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Polson Chamber of Commerce office manager Carol Cunningham said many local businesses have lost significant revenue since the pandemic started.

A lot of businesses in the area rely on the summer influx of out-of-state tourists to generate income. The tourism season got a late start due to virus prevention measures, but visitors are beginning to come to the area. Now, according to state guidance, visitors from out-of-state do not have to quarantine for 14 days before going into public. That makes it easier for people to keep their vacation plans. Read more from the Valley Journal here.

WhitefishAmtrak to Reduce Service on Long-Distance Routes—Citing declines in ridership and the long-term effects of COVID-19, Amtrak will reduce service on most long-distance routes beginning in October, including its Empire Builder line that runs through Whitefish and northern Montana. Service on the Empire Builder will be cut from daily down to three days a week.

The Empire Builder operates between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. Whitefish is the most popular stop between St. Paul and Seattle, averaging around 55,000 passengers a year since 2016. Only Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle and Portland have higher ridership numbers. The train also makes stops in other small northern Montana towns, including Havre, Cut Bank, East Glacier and Libby. An Amtrak spokeswoman said in a statement that cuts will remain in place until at least summer of 2021, and return to daily service will be based on demand. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here.

YellowstoneYellowstone Says Tourism Generated $642 Million for Nearby Economies in 2019—A press release on Wednesday, June 17, stated that tourism in 2019 generated a cumulative economic benefit of $642 million for local economies near the park.

“A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 4 million people to Yellowstone in 2019 spent $507 million in communities near the park,” the release states.

In addition, tourism supported 7,000 jobs in the area, bringing the total economic benefit from tourism to Yellowstone to $642 million.

The positive economic impacts of Yellowstone are essential to economies of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “It is important that we continue working with our state and local partners to balance the many benefits of tourism with our continued efforts to protect the world-class resources within the park.” Read more from Oil City News 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

How to Road Trip Safely During a Pandemic: Tips for Navigating Rest Stops, Gas Stations and Hotels

Plan ahead and bring gloves for handling gas pumps and a mask in case they're required where you're going. Find resources for checking what's open.

When it comes to vacation, the coronavirus pandemic is making people take the road less traveled.

So, you're tired of staying home and you just want to get out of the house? With many states lifting their coronavirus-related restrictions, a summer road trip is a good way to just get away. But with social distancing guidelines still in place in many states, travelers may be required to wear a face mask when they stop for gas, groceries, or other supplies.

"I don’t think this is going to be like any other kind of summer," said Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health. "Everything is going to be very different."

This summer, road trippers will need to do more planning and preparation than they might have done in the past. Here are seven tips to help you stay safe and reduce your risk of getting sick off and on the road:

  1. Planning your route
  2. What to pack? Don't forget the hand sanitizer
  3. So, where do you eat?
  4. Will rest stops be closed?
  5. Staying safe at the pump
  6. Sleeping accommodations
  7. Which states require masks

Read more from USA Today here.

Funding Resources

Our Town Grant Program

Our Town is the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program. It supports projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes.

Successful Our Town projects lay the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture and design into local strategies for strengthening communities.

Projects require a partnership between a local government entity and a cultural organization; and should engage in partnership with other sectors (such as agriculture, economic development, education, environment or workforce development). Cost share/matching grants range from $25,000 to $150,000.

For more information, click here for a description of the program. If you have questions contact the staff at with your question or to set up a time to speak to staff.

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