Friday Flash 7/31/2020

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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.

COVID-19 Homepage

Montana Tourism Industry Unites for ‘Montana Aware’ Campaign

17 CVBs, 6 tourism regions to participate in statewide effort to promote safety measures

The Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism and Business Development has launched the “Montana Aware” campaign to promote safe and responsible behavior among those who are traveling in the state. The public health initiative aims to educate residents and visitors on best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Our top priority is to keep those who live, work and travel in Montana safe,” said Commerce Director Tara Rice. “It’s important that we put safety first and adventure second because we all have a shared responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19.” 

Montana Aware Badge

The “Montana Aware” initiative is a formalized effort encouraging Montana’s tourism partners and local businesses to use flyers, posters, social media messages, customer emails and business websites to help inform guests about public health guidelines and best practices. The Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism and Business Development first began promoting a safety message on June 1 and worked with tourism partners to do the same. Through the formal “Montana Aware” campaign, 17 of Montana’s Convention and Visitors Bureaus and six tourism regions share $5 million to promote the initiative.

Gardiner CVB, Belgrade CVB, Miles City CVB, Livingston CVB, Red Lodge CVB, Glendive CVB, Havre CVB, Billings CVB, Big Sky CVB, Bozeman CVB, Missoula CVB, West Yellowstone CVB, Great Falls CVB, Kalispell CVB, Whitefish CVB, Butte CVB, Helena CVB       

Southeast Montana, Southwest Montana, Central Montana, Missouri River Country, Glacier Country, Yellowstone Country      

Safe Travel Guidelines Before travelers hit the road, they should, “Know before you go.”

  • Know the local public health guidelines before arriving to their destination
  • Understand some services and destinations may be limited
  • Stay home if they’re sick

When travelers are on the road, they should:

  • Wear a mask – face coverings are required in certain indoor spaces and for certain organized outdoor activities in counties currently experiencing four or more active case of COVID-19
  • Maintain social distance (at least 6 feet apart)
  • Wash their hands and use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching their face
  • Cover coughs and sneezes

The “Montana Aware” initiative is funded with federal dollars through Montana’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. For more information about the Montana Aware program go to VISITMT.COM

Montana Aware Toolkit

You can find the downloadable toolkit and other resources at MARKETMT.COM


MT Aware

COVID-19 Relief Funding

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 27 from Destination Analysts

Travel Sentiment and Pandemic Etiquette Improved Somewhat this Week, but the Stress is Putting Americans in a Travel Funk.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • A few important travel metrics positively increased this week: excitement for near-term travel, openness to travel inspiration, and the number who say they will take a trip in 2020.
  • 18.2% of American travelers anticipate their next road will be in August.
  • The profile of those that recently traveled by air skews younger, urban dwellers that typically traveled for business and conventions in the pre-pandemic period.
  • Those that have recently traveled by air largely rate their experience with the health and safety protocols implemented by their airline and the airports as satisfactory.
  • More Americans are now agreeing with pandemic etiquette and say they will practice it when traveling, including wearing a face mask.
  • Nevertheless, the marked stress Americans are feeling during the pandemic remains a parasite on travel morale.
  • Overall, half of American travelers agree they have lost their taste for travel for the time being—a feeling more pronounced in Baby Boomers and those in the West and Northeast.

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 

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   


Six Agritourism Ideas for Native Farmers and Ranchers from the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA)

AIANTA is focused on helping tribes showcase their heritage to visitors in a manner that helps drive economic prosperity while also protecting cultural integrity. Included in that cultural heritage are traditional growing and agricultural practices, an area that is becoming increasingly popular with travelers.

There are plenty of economic benefits for farmers and ranchers interested in supplementing their farm or ranch income with an agritourism program. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there are nearly 80,000 Native American or Alaska Native farm producers in the United States, and those farmers generated some $3.5 billion in receipts.

Because traditional Native American cultivation and harvesting are not limited to farms and ranches in the modern sense, tribal agritourism can incorporate a much broader scope than most traditional farms.

Many communities around the country are harnessing travelers’ increasing interest in food and farming as a way to invest back into their own traditional cuisine and food systems. Utilizing the revenues generated from agritourism receipts can lead to a stronger food sovereignty program for the entire community.

The key to success doesn’t necessarily mean implementing giant changes to your existing operation. Starting small can be a good way for busy entrepreneurs to test the waters. This young farmer, for example, launched his career with his “Name a Duck for a Buck” program.

Tribes interested in exploring ways to supplement their agriculture revenue can find more ideas from AIANTA here. They include:

  • You Pick 'Em
  • Festival Fun
  • Friendly Competition
  • Please Feed the Animals
  • Showcase Traditional Practices
  • Bed & Breakfast


Marlee I

Interim Marketing Bureau Chief

Marlee Iverson has assumed the role of Interim Marketing Bureau Chief as Patty White recently departed MOTBD to pursue new adventures.

Marlee has worked for the Department of Commerce for many years and is the current manager of the International Marketing program. She brings great knowledge and leadership to the position. 

Marlee has vast familiarity with the bed tax budget, marketing campaigns, the international and domestic traveler, an understanding of the working relationships within the Marketing Bureau as well as the division, and great relationships with partners. Please join us in welcoming Marlee to the interim Marketing Bureau Chief position!

Office of Indian Country Economic Development

Maria V

New Beginnings at the Office of Indian Country Economic Development

After nearly 14 years with the Department of Commerce, Heather Sobrepena is transitioning to a new role as a Project Manager for the Center for Indian Country Development at the Helena Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Heather will continue her work strengthening the economies of Indian Country. Her colleagues at Commerce wish her all the best in her new position and look forward to collaborating on future projects!

While Commerce prepares to fill the vacancy permanently, Maria Valandra has accepted the position of Interim Program Manager for the Office of Indian Country Economic Development (OICED). In combination with her existing duties, Maria will be the point of contact for the following programs:

  • Tribal Business Planning Grant (TBGP)
  • Native American Business Advisor (NABA) Grant
  • Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant
  • Native American Collateral Support (NACS)

It’s a big job, but Maria has support from her OICED colleagues. Here’s how to reach everyone:

Maria Valandra, Interim Program Manager | 406.841.2061

Dan Iverson, Tribal Tourism Officer | 406.841.2734

Billie LeDeau, STEDC Program Manager | 406.841.2754

Heritage/Cultural News

Dino Passport

Dino Trail Program Gets Thumbs Up Response from Hysham Family

Earlier this month the Roberts family from Hysham completed the Montana Dinosaur Trail. In their t-shirt order the mom wrote "Thank you for sponsoring the Dino Trail! The girls had a blast as did their parents. What a great program to learn about our great state! Keep it up. P.S. Us parents should get t-shirts too!"

In response, the parents were told that t-shirts were a reward tied to purchase of the passports and visiting all 14 facilities and their communities. In consideration of their request, a representative from the Dino Trail told them that if they wanted to purchase two passports at the online price of $7 each plus postage, $20 total, the passports would be considered filled since they were the escorts for their daughters and send them t-shirts. They agreed, sent the money, and here's their response when the family's shirts arrived:

"The t-shirts are AWESOME!! Thank you for sending us adults shirts also. The girls were visiting friends so we waited to open both packages until they were home. Super excited about the shirts. Not sure whether to wear it or save it! 🙂 This is a great program for anyone to use as an "excuse" to explore our great state. (As if we need an excuse 🙂 ) We will definitely be sharing our adventures with others. Thank you again......The Roberts family"

Outdoor Recreation

Yellowstone Announces Lottery for 2020-2021 Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program

The lottery for a Yellowstone National Park snowmobile permit without a commercial guide for the 2020-21 season will be open from August 1-31, the National Park Service announced in a July 24 press release.

Successful applicants will be notified in September, and unclaimed permits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting Oct. 1. Authorized in 2013, the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program allows one group of up to five snowmobiles per day to enter Yellowstone from each of its four winter entrances. Read more from the National Park Service here

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

MissoulaEconomic Leaders Praise Expansion of Alaska Airlines Service in Missoula—Tourism and economic leaders on Tuesday praised a move by Alaska Airlines to provide daily nonstop service from Missoula to three California cities, including two near the Silicon Valley, which could aid further economic growth.

Described as the single largest expansion of air service in Missoula history, Alaska plans to begin the routes to San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego next March.

Local tourism officials are already looking for ways to market the service and promote travel to and from Missoula as they attempt to move past the challenges of 2020 and back into a more vibrant economy.

Combined with Alaska’s existing nonstop service from Missoula to Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, the three new routes open the entire West Coast to Missoula, and Missoula to the West Coast. Read more from the Missoula Current here.

MontanaMontana Tourism Industry Riding Pandemic Highs and Lows; Recovery Could Take Time—The impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s tourism industry remain anecdotal, with a closure here and limited service there.

While raw figures aren’t yet available for the summer season, those in the industry have seen points of promise and signs of trouble, all depending on where one looks.

This year is all about camping. It’s probably the most popular thing right now. It’s definitely the year for that,” said Racine Friede, president and CEO of Glacier Country Tourism. “But anything to do with indoor stuff, they’re struggling.”

Campgrounds across western Montana have been packed ever since the camping season began. By early July, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reported “a real uptick” in use of its sites, and Glacier National Park for a short time considered a ticketed entry system to manage congestion. 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

Millennial Meeting Planners and How CVBs Can Engage With Them

Destination Analysts’ latest meeting planner research found that Millennial-aged planners are less engaged with CVBs compared to those in older generations–a critical issue for the industry. During our webinar on July 21st, Vice President, Kimberly Vince-Cruz, interviewed a panel of meeting planners about their opinions on why this is and what CVBs can do to build and better the relationship with these planners. To watch the webinar from July 21 or see highlights from the discussion, 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

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