Friday Flash 7/24/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

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. 

Montana Coronavirus Relief Funding Resources

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 new programs created in response to the emergency. For a complete list of available grant programs, eligibility requirements and to apply, visit 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 July 20 from Destination Analysts

Over two-thirds of American travelers say they plan to wear a mask during their trips and report they would feel happy if their destination required mask-wearing while in public. Meanwhile, findings show Americans continue to feel down on near-term travel, but are exhibiting signs of optimism for the next year.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Travel morale remains depressed: a record 46.7% of American travelers now say they don’t have any trip plans for the remainder of 2020.
  • Over two-thirds of American travelers plan to wear a face mask during trips and largely plan to practice other pandemic etiquette such as following social distancing guidelines.
  • When asked how they would feel if a destination they wanted to visit required visitors and residents to wear masks while in public, over two-thirds (67.4%) said that would make them happy.
  • Of the 9.5% that expressed unhappiness about a mask mandate, half said it would not keep them from visiting a place they otherwise wanted to visit.
  • Americans are exhibiting some signs of optimism as they look out at their travel future. Now, 16.0% say they expect to take more leisure trips in the next 12 months than they did in the previous year.
  • Another positive trend: 34.7% now say they will prioritize leisure travel in their budget and expected leisure travel spend for the next year is up to $2,721 from $2,361 six weeks ago.

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.
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • 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. 

2020 Montana Tourism Legacy Award –
Marysue Costello and Gayle Fisher

These two industry leaders have long histories of advocating for the tourism industry, of being avid promoters of Montana and being passionate about what they do and why they do it. They have been entrenched in Montana's Tourism Industry for decades. No one could question these individuals' remarkable dedication and fervent interest in what our industry means to Montana. They have generously shared their expertise, embraced new ideas, and have always looked for new ways to promote tourism's role locally and statewide.


Marysue Costello
Marysue has been a true inspiration to colleagues and visitors alike for more than 40 years. She is known to be level-headed and highly perceptive, contributing an abundance of leadership, wisdom and grace to the tourism industry in Montana.

Marysue is a pioneer and leader in tourism development in Montana, having served as member of the original Tourism Advisory Council. She also worked to develop the framework for the first set of regulations and procedures that guide the use of lodging facility tax revenue allocated to the tourism regions and Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs).

Over the years, she lobbied the legislature to pass crucial legislation impacting the tourism industry. She led the formation of the West Yellowstone Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), second in the state at the time. She has volunteered in the greater Yellowstone community and served as a champion of economic development through tourism and recreation.

She helps others accomplish great things. Her husband says it best, “Marysue has been involved in many things that other people would consider remarkable, but that is just what she does.” Marysue Costello leaves a legacy of accomplishments and vision for the future with projects including wayfinding, and the upcoming Rail Trail.

Gayle F

Gayle Fisher
As sure as the Missouri River flows across nearly the entire state of Montana, so has Gayle Fisher been an inspirational and powerful force in the tourism industry.

She started her career as the first director for the Central Montana tourism region, originally known as Russell Country. With nearly 40 years in the industry, many have described her as a “tremendous mentor”. She amazes others by her depth of knowledge, experience and history while also being forward thinking in her approach and open to new and progressive ways of reaching and inspiring potential visitors.

Gayle never shies away from a challenge, is always seeking new and creative solutions, and works tirelessly to tell the story of our beautiful state. Gayle's creativity and enthusiasm are contagious. Whether it is attending a travel show, providing leadership to the organizations’ board members, tasting pies “ala road” for the successful pie trail, pulling the car over to capture a perfect photo, or educating small communities on the impact of tourism. Once she has an idea, she sees it through to fruition.

Gayle has been, and will likely always be, a true ambassador and remarkable advocate for Montana tourism and is incredibly deserving of this honor.

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. You can also find Made in Montana producers and retailers in your area by visiting   

Mask Up with Montana-Made Products 

More than 75 Montana businesses have stepped up to make in-demand products and have adapted quickly through the support of the Montana Department of Commerce, Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) at Montana State University. MMEC partners with and is funded through Commerce. Some of these companies have also received grant funds through the Montana Innovation or Business Stabilization programs created in response to the pandemic. 

Going from making pedicabs to protective face shields like Bonner-based Coaster Cycles, or from making world-class Gortex fly fishing waders to sewn surgical gowns like Bozeman-based Simms Fishing – these Montana-made companies are doing what they can to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

-----> See the list of Montana-made mask and sanitizer producers here.


The Montana State University College of Agriculture and Montana Agriculture Experiment Station (MAES) will host a series of virtual field day events to replace in-person field days for 2020.

The usual field days, hosted by MSU’s seven research centers and campus facilities, were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, superintendents and scientists across the state will present both recorded and live content online, available and free to access.

“Our field days are always a highlight of our year, and we were disappointed to not be able to host them this summer. But, the safety of our community members and our research center staff is our top priority,” said Darrin Boss, head of the Department of Research Centers and superintendent of the Northern Agricultural Research Center. “We hope that by creating virtual content this year, we will be able to incorporate virtual elements into future field days and produce an even better experience for everyone.”

MSU’s seven agricultural research centers are located in Huntley, Conrad, Havre, Moccasin, Sidney, Kalispell and Corvallis. Each center will provide short recorded presentations on a variety of topics specific to the research they conduct. Topics will include cereals, livestock production, water and pesticide use, fruit production and more. Content will also be provided by the MSU Post Farm, located a few miles from the MSU campus in Bozeman.

Virtual content will include welcome messages from Boss, MSU President Waded Cruzado and College of Agriculture Dean and MAES director Sreekala Bajwa. There will also be a live segment in which community members and any interested viewers may ask agriculture-related questions of MSU researchers and agriculture experts. Topics for the live segment will include crop pathology, soils, organic production, horticulture, livestock, weeds and a variety of other subjects.

Recorded presentations will be posted on the MAES website on Friday, July 24, at noon and will be hosted through the College of Agriculture YouTube channel. That webpage will also include information on the live segment, which will take place on July 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Questions for the live segment can be emailed to 


Wolf Creek

Visit Montana Channels Launch New Story Themes

MOTBD Marketing began rolling out new story content on both the Visit Montana Instagram and Facebook channels this week.

This intent is to share a little bit of Montana with community members without taking away the importance of the current safety campaign. Check out these stories and follow along as new stories continue to roll out.

Montana Film News

Film Industry Contributed $48 Million to Montana’s Economy in 2019-2020

Independent Report Details 18-month Industry Impact

The production of films, television shows and commercials contributed $47.6 million to Montana’s economy over the last 18 months according to a new independent report on the film industry’s impact commissioned by the Montana Department of Commerce.

From January 2019-June 2020, 117 productions were filmed in Montana, directly spending $23.9 million in Montana communities, supporting 280 jobs, and contributing $1.3 million in local tax revenue. The report by Econsult Solutions, Inc. or ESI was commissioned by the Montana Film Office at the Department of Commerce as required by House Bill 293 which created the Montana Economic Development Industry Advancement Act (MEDIA Act). The MEDIA Act is Montana’s new film industry tax incentive which went into effect July 1, 2019.  

Montana’s film industry is a powerful tool for creating good-paying jobs and supporting small businesses in our communities,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said.

At the publish date of the report, ten productions had been certified by the Montana Film Office to receive a tax incentive through the MEDIA Act. Four additional productions have been certified after the completion of the report. To date, no production had yet received a tax credit through the Montana Department of Revenue.

The report concludes that “the benefits to local communities from the film and entertainment industry are considerable. During filming, production often hires local businesses to help support their operations. From caterers, to hotels, and hardware stores to transportation, the film industry can have a significant economic impact on various sectors of the local economy. Even one day of shooting can have a significant impact on local business.”

The full report is available here and was presented to the Interim Revenue Committee on July 21.

Outdoor Recreation

U.S. House Passes Great American Outdoors Act

A bill is on its way to the President’s desk that will finally reduce the backlog of maintenance building up in national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone.

On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide up to $9.5 billion for national park maintenance over the next five years and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million annually.

Many in Montana reacted with relief and happiness after waiting a month since the companion bill passed easily in the Senate. The House bill was expected to pass, but the Senate’s amendments had to be incorporated first to avoid further Congressional back-and-forth. That took place Wednesday morning.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund portion of the bill means that Congress can’t shunt portions of the $900 million annual payment from offshore oil royalties into other programs. Now, groups like the Five Valleys Land Trust or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have one more funding tool when they’re trying to help property owners who want their land to go into the public trust. Read more from the Missoula Current here.

Glacier National Park Decides not to Implement Ticketed Entry

After careful consideration, discussion, and with input from park staff, local businesses, and parks already implementing similar systems, Glacier National Park officials have decided not to implement the proposed temporary ticketed vehicle entry.  

On June 27, park officials learned that access across the Blackfeet Reservation would remain closed for the summer due to COVID-19. Staff immediately began to explore implementing a ticketed entry system similar to what Yosemite National Park implemented this year. Since the park opened on June 8, Glacier has seen high levels of congestion on the west side of the park due to other areas being closed, fewer recreational opportunities, and limited services. 

Over the past three weeks Superintendent Jeff Mow has engaged with over 100 businesses around the park to hear their questions and comments about implementing a ticketed entry system. Mow also met with park officials at other parks that have implemented reservation type services and discussed at length their experiences. After considering input from many sources and the uncertainty of upcoming conditions, park officials decided that the timing isn’t right to implement a ticketed entry system this summer.

We heard support for a reservation system from community constituents because they know the park is at maximum capacity,” said Mow. “But there were serious concerns about implementing such a system with such short notice and midway through the visitor season.”  

Visitors are reminded that the park is very busy and can be very congested throughout the summer months. The park may still have to implement visitor use restrictions to protect public health and safety and to provide for social distancing opportunities. Visitors are encouraged to check the online Recreation Access Display (RAD), the park’s webcams, and the park’s Twitter account for current conditions.

This continues to be a summer like no other. It is uncertain if visitation will continue to increase or how COVID-19 may require us to change how the park is managed for visitors,” said Mow. “As we have for the last several weeks, our goal is to provide the best visitor experience under these challenging and uncertain conditions.”

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

BozemanStarlite Drive-In Theater Re-Opens in the Gallatin Valley After Decades—The Starlite Drive-In Theater is reopening in Bozeman this week after a thirty-year break.

Drive-ins have become a little more popular and people are trying to figure out ways to go do entertainment that’s safe,” said JP Gabriel, owner of Filmlites Production in Bozeman. Gabriel figured now's the ideal time to turn his dream into a reality. And the new location lends itself to social distancing.

Even during the times of the Depression and other really tough times for people they depended on going to the movies and ways to entertain themselves,” he said. Gabriel also says the new venue offers an open-air movie theater with state-of-the-art LED technology. Unlike back in the day, the sound from the movie will be transmitted on FM radio.

The location is just outside Four Corners off River Road. Even though it’s a different venue, there will be remnants of the past. Read more from KTVH here

EurekaBusinesses in a Montana Border Town Suffer Without Traffic in and out of Canada—The U.S.-Canada border crossing north of Eureka, Mont., is quiet these days. No buses or vans packed with mountain bikes and vacationing families. Just a single logging truck.

"No traffic hardly at all," says David Clarke, owner of the First & Last Chance Bar and Duty Free Store.

On a normal summer, he says, "you'll see a lineup at the border going both ways. You'll have people walking in and buying pop or candy bars or chips."

But today Clarke's store is mostly empty. It's been this way since March 18, when the Canadian and U.S. governments agreed to essentially shut down their shared land border in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Commercial trucks can still pass through, but almost everyone else can't. As the shutdown drags on into its fifth month, small towns and businesses along the world's longest international border are struggling. Read more from Boise State Public Radio here

Flathead ValleyPopulated Parts of Montana Slower to Recover Economically from COVID-19—Economists are finding that populated areas of Montana are slower to recover economically from the CVOVID-19 pandemic.

Montana Department of Labor and Industries chief economist Barbra Wagner told MTN News that the state's economy as a whole is recovering faster from coronavirus than the rest of the country.

She explained that from April to May Montana gained 17,330 Montanans returned to work but in populated parts of Montana -- like the Flathead Valley -- extra caution is needed moving forward.

The Flathead Valley's unemployment was higher than the rest of the state at 16% compared to a statewide 11% with Wagner noting that one reason is due to the Flathead's dependency on tourism. Read more from KPAX 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

Travel Confidently Toolkit

The health and safety of customers is the number one priority of every travel business. This shared viewpoint has brought sectors from across the industry together, working with health and medical experts, to reach collective agreement on a core set of health and safety guidance that the industry may adapt to their businesses.

Though each guidance may be implemented in different ways, each touchpoint is applying consistent enhanced cleanliness measures. A healthy and safe travel experience is a shared responsibility. When travel businesses, residents and travelers all do their part, Americans can Travel Confidently. For more information and resources or to download the toolkit from the U.S. Travel Association, click here.

Alaska Airlines Adds 12 New Destinations from LAX

Alaska Airlines announced this week seven new routes from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to further connect its guests between Southern California and key markets around the country, including the first nonstop service from the West Coast to Fort Myers/Naples, Fla. (RSW) from both LAX and Seattle.

The added service builds on five recent additional routes that link LAX to cities across the West for a total of 12 new routes this year. Alaska will fly to 35 nonstop destinations from LAX this winter with a strong platform for future growth. Tickets for all flights are available for purchase at with fares starting as low as $39 one way.

The new routes will connect Alaska’s guests in Southern California to destinations in Florida (Fort Myers and Tampa); Hawaii (Kona and Lihue); Montana (Bozeman) and Oregon (Eugene and Medford). Service starts on Oct. 1 for the Oregon markets, and between Nov. 20 and December 18 for the remaining destinations. Read more from RusTourismNews 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

October 20, 2020 (Sidney) and October 22, 2020 (Butte)—Rise and Restore Small Business Summit—The Rise and Restore Small Business Summit is in response to COVID-19. Hear how industry experts and other small business owners have been maintaining their business, stabilizing their profit and protecting their team in response to COVID-19. To learn more or register, click here