Friday Flash 8/21/2020

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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.


Montana Aware Badge

‘Montana Aware’ Campaign

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

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.

'Montana Aware' Campaign Making Headlines

  • KULR8Montana Aware Campaign Promotes Safety Measures During COVID-19
  • NBC MontanaWhitefish Joins Statewide COVID-19 Campaign 
  • Whitefish PilotWhitefish Among Tourism Organizations Promoting Safe Travel Practices

Montana Aware Toolkit

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

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. 

  • New! Live Entertainment Grant—The Live Entertainment Grant Program is available to Montana-based businesses and non-profits that are directly engaged in the business of live entertainment, and whose revenues primarily come from live entertainment events.
  • New! East Edge of Glacier Park Tourism Business Grant—Tourism-reliant businesses in the Babb – St. Mary - East Glacier corridor may be eligible to apply for a grant of up to 25 percent of their 2019 gross revenue based on a 2019 tax return. The maximum award available is $40,000. Any Business Stabilization Grants or Agriculture Adaptability Grants awarded to the business will be deducted from the eligible East Edge of Glacier Park Tourism Business Grant total.

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 August 17 from Destination Analysts

Increasing feelings of safety are driving more positivity about tourism—both outbound and within their own communities. And as Americans look out to upcoming holidays, there is a gradually increasing expectation to travel for these occasions.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Pandemic-related health and financial safety concerns have dropped to levels last seen in mid-June. Although there are still notable levels of pessimism, less Americans are feeling the pandemic will worsen in the next month.
  • The proportion of American travelers who feels comfortable going out in their own community now exceeds the proportion who do not. And they are getting more comfortable with tourism to their own communities.
  • Safety perceptions of travel activities have improved overall, nearing June levels. Thus, the percent of Americans who report being in a “ready to travel” state of mind is now higher than those who report needing more time to feel ready.
  • Those with trip plans for the remainder of the year are commonly prioritizing getting away from crowds and enjoying nature, in addition to spending time with loved ones.
  • As Americans look out to upcoming holidays, there is a gradually increasing expectation to travel for these occasions: Labor Day (12.6%), Thanksgiving (15.8%) and Christmas (20.0%).
  • Looking even further out over 2021, three-quarters of Americans have at least tentative trip plans right now. Just 25% say they have no plans to travel through 2021.
  • About 30% would be up for taking a flight in the next month, although there is somewhat more comfort with direct flights than those that require a connection.
  • A majority of American travelers approve of travel restriction policies imposed by state governments on travelers from high outbreak areas.

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   

Montana Spirits Spur Exotic Staycation

Enjoy international flavors without leaving Montana. Mix up a beverage with Montana made spirits to satisfy the travel bug.

If you’d planned a trip to the UK, Ireland, Italy, Barbados, France, Mexico, South America or elsewhere this year, you’ve likely put your plans on hold. I’m sorry.

But here’s a tasty Montana twist to satisfy your international travel bug: Montana distilleries make a surprising number of spirits that are grounded in this state but draw inspiration from elsewhere. Take a trip to the local liquor store or distillery (mask-clad, of course) to see what’s in stock, pick one, and let your imagination fly. You’ll spend a lot less on the bottle (about $20-$35) than the actual trip. Read more from the Montana Standard here.

MT Local Food Challenge


Northern Plains Resource Council hosts the 5th Annual Local Food Challenge
Are you up to the challenge? The Northern Plains Resource Council is challenging you (and ourselves) to eat more local foods, to ask for more local foods in your community, and to help support Montana agriculture in a giant way. Learn more and take the challenge here

Tribal News

Virtual Crow Fair Dance Contest Doubles as 2020 Census Campaign

August 17, 2020 was supposed to be the finals for the crow dance contest, a tradition held every year at the Crow Fair. While the dancers cannot participate in person this year, men and women ages 16 and older participated virtually, while also encouraging people to fill out the 2020 census.

Cordelia Falls Down, a member of the Crow Tribe and a graduate student in the Native American studies program at the University of Oklahoma says bringing the dance contest online will allow those to still honor the Crow Fair, while also encouraging census participation.

In every video submission, participants are required to encourage viewers to fill out their 2020 census form. Falls Down says response rate to the census is typically very low on the Crow Reservation, compared to the rest of Montana. According to Western Native Voice, turn out for this year's census for the Crow Tribe is only around 10%. Read more from KULR8 here

Outdoor Recreation

2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit | Building Resiliency for the Future—October 13 - 15, 2020 (Virtual)

The 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit will focus on building resiliency for the future and take place October 13-15, 2020 virtually. Montana Governor's Office of Outdoor Recreation, Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council, and Montana Trails Coalition will host the region's enhanced follow-up to inaugural 2018 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit.

This year's Summit participants will be from Montana, Greater Crown of the Continent Region including Alberta and British Columbia and beyond, ranging from industry, community, and conservation. Summit will offer tools that will help facilitate interaction between attendees and create concrete opportunities to utilize and integrate into future work. Join the conversation to:

  • Promote outdoor recreation opportunities for all
  • Enhance public access to outdoor recreation resources and facilities
  • Support economic vitality of communities and outdoor recreation industry
  • Improve quality of life through outdoor recreation experiences
  • Adapt outdoor recreation for a changing environment
  • Honor outdoor legacy

Expect three days of networking, live panels, podcasts, dynamic guest speakers, webinars, live workshops, film festival and so much more. For more information, click here


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

BozemanBozeman Tourism Industry Shows Signs of Improvement After Hard hit From COVID-19—Officials from the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce say they’re seeing the impacts of tourism in Bozeman because of COVID-19. President and CEO Daryl Schliem says there was a slow start at the end of June; July started to pick up, and August got a little bit better.

 Fewer out-of-staters, plus health regulations, made it tough for hotels and restaurants. “The profit margins just aren’t what they use to be in the old days,” Schliem said. “So it’s very hard for them to make it at 75% capacity to show a profit at the end of the year.” Schliem says that’s also because people aren’t spending as much money.

According to the Montana Office of Tourism and Development, the lodging numbers for the first quarter of 2020 are down 4% from 2019 but stronger than the same time in 2017 and 2018. Read more from NBC Montana here.

Great FallsGreat Falls Ranks #7 Most Affordable Small Metro Areas in the WestWhile cities in the west have some of the highest costs of living in the United States, there are still many affordable options available to residents. Which includes Great Falls, Montana.

Great Falls is so great because of our art, history, and culture, that is completely mixed with outdoor recreation.” Said Rebecca Engum, Executive Director of Visit Great Falls. The Electric City is ranked the 7th most affordable small metro in the west. With a 8% lower cost of living than the national average. Read more from KHQ here.

MissoulaMissoula Ranks in 2020 Top Bike-Friendly Cities—Rain or shine, snow or sun, Missoulians love to bike. So it’s really no surprise that our city ranks in the "Top Bike Friendly Cities" year after year. PeopleForBikes and their PlacesForBikes program conducted their latest search for the most bike-friendly places to live and visit, and Missoula is still sitting high on the ranking for best places to ride. Read more from the Destination Missoula blog here

WhitefishOutdoor Recreation Draws Tourists to Whitefish—Whitefish Mountain Resort and the city of Whitefish continue to see an increase of visitors due to the outdoor recreation opportunities offered in the area.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled many events across Montana and added several limitations to activities that are still happening. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a push for outdoor recreation. “We are more than happy and definitely very pleased with how things turned out this summer, and we are fortunate because all of our activities are outside,” said Riley Polumbus, public relations manager at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Aside from additional COVID-19 protocols and safety precautions, not much has changed this summer at Whitefish Mountain Resort. “It allows people to come and recreate and do the things we normally offer,” said Polumbus. Polumbus said this year they have sold more season bike park passes than ever before. She said they have also seen a huge increase in lessons and bike rentals. Read more at NBC Montana here.

YellowstoneAmid Pandemic, Yellowstone Tourism up in July—The coronavirus pandemic is not keeping visitors away from Yellowstone National Park, where attendance last month hit nearly 1 million, a 2% increase from July 2019. Park officials Tuesday said they hosted 955,645 visitors during the month.

The park in Wyoming and Montana has long ranked as one of the most popular in the nation, though overall attendance has suffered this year. So far, through July of this year, the park has drawn a total of 1,664,830 visitors. That's a drop of 27.5% from the same time period last year.

The National Park Service closed the park March 24, citing health and safety reasons. But all five park entrances have been reopened since June 1, with the first two in Wyoming welcoming back visitors May 18. Read more from E&E News here.


Stop the Knock

Stop the Knock!Complete the 2020 Census Now

Share the message that Montana's can RESPOND NOW and lessen the possibility of a Census Bureau employee knocking on their door to obtain a response to the 2020 Census.

Census takers are currently knocking on doors to follow up with households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census, but you can STOP THE KNOCK if you respond today!

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.


UM Travel Institute: 2020 Tests Montana Tourism

In 2019, nonresident travelers spent $3.77 billion throughout Montana, a 5.4% increase from the previous year. Over 12.6 million nonresidents visited in 2019.

Research by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research reveals a different story in 2020. Nearly all of the second quarter was shut down to travelers this year due to the pandemic, creating a jolt to that yearly injection of money and visitors into Montana’s economy. The second quarter generally accounts for a bit more than 20% of annual traveler spending in the state.

Additionally, the latest available statistics by the National Park Service show big visitation declines in June in Montana’s Glacier and Yellowstone national park. Glacier was down 62% during June 2019, and Yellowstone was down 32% in June compared to that month a year ago. July figures are not yet available for Glacier, but Yellowstone experienced a 2% increase in visitors when compared to July 2019.

In general, when the two national parks do well, Montana’s tourism does well. As travelers drive to the parks, they spend extra time in Montana just to get there.

What we expect to see, however, is a change in nonresident spending patterns for 2020,” said Jeremy Sage, ITRR associate director. “For example, with nervousness about dining in, we expect higher spending in the grocery and snack categories and less in restaurants and bars.” Read more from the University of Montana here.

The full report on 2019 estimates of the economic contribution of nonresident travelers in Montana travel regions and counties is available on the ITRR website here

All information and reports published by ITRR are available online here

Study: 40% of Excess Unemployment Is in Leisure & Hospitality Sector

Faced with a fresh round of bleak employment data, the American travel industry is renewing its pleas for leaders in Washington to return to the negotiating table and finalize another coronavirus-related relief package—without which the prospects for an overall U.S. economic recovery look increasingly grim.

A report prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by Tourism Economics finds a bevy of chilling jobs figures—and underscores the fact that an overall U.S. employment recovery will not be successful unless the hard-hit travel and tourism industry can be safely restarted:

  • 40% of excess U.S. unemployment is in the Leisure and Hospitality (L&H) sector [1], despite that sector accounting for 11% of all pre-pandemic employment in the U.S.
  • Despite some jobs being slowly restored with the onset of the spring and summer travel seasons, more than a quarter of all L&H workers remain unemployed—double the next most hard-hit industry.
  • Nearly half of the 16.9 million jobs in the L&H sector were wiped out in March and April.
  • If every industry recovered to its pre-pandemic employment level except for L&H, the overall employment rate would fall from 10.2% to 6.2%—still 2.7% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Read more from U.S. Travel Association here.

Funding Resources

2021 Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant

The Office of Indian Country Economic Development is accepting applications to the fiscal year 2021 Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant program. Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2020. The purpose of this grant is to assist startup or expanding Native American businesses in Montana.

The funds are available to enrolled members of the tribes in Montana. All applications must include documentation of tribal enrollment in the form of a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) or tribal ID. An application will be considered incomplete without this information.

Awards for individual businesses can be up to $14,000 with a minimum dollar-to-dollar cash or in-kind match ($1:$1) and must be firmly committed and documented in the application. For more information, click here

Other News

Should Your DMO Urge Domestic Travel Right Now

Tourism destinations that promote domestic travel without a responsive, transparent strategy risk alienating residents.

Domestic tourism initiatives have been attracting media attention and are often seen as encouraging signs for the hard-hit tourism industry. But the pandemic continues to bring waves of uncertainty and change. How can your destination promote travel responsibly, keep people safe and avoid a public backlash?

Lockdown restrictions make local or domestic travel a logical starting point for people to experiment with travel. While opportunities for increased travel appeal to those who have been under stay-at-home orders for months and to the tourism businesses and hosts missing their guests, host communities need to be ready for and receptive to visitors.

Your destination marketing organization (DMO) must remain attuned to its local nuances and shifting perceptions while abiding by regulations. Stay vigilant and flexible.

Read more from DestinationThink! including real-world examples of destinations promoting domestic tourism as they gradually restart their economies, with mixed results here

Other Dates/Events to Note

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