Friday Flash 9/25/2020

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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 Toolkit

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

Montana Aware Badge

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 September 21 from Destination Analysts

As Americans’ daily stress levels have recently increased, there will be a greater prioritization of having new experiences, escaping boredom and simply finding joy. Openness to travel—and feeling they will have a good time doing it—continues to bloom.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Nearly half of American travelers feel a high degree of stress in their daily lives. But while stress is up compared to a few months ago, the propensity to worry about coronavirus is down.
  • Since April, and amidst rising stress, more Americans are reporting stronger prioritization of relaxation, finding joy/happiness, and—especially important for travel—having new experiences.
  • Those who are already traveling (or ready to without hesitation) are far likelier to be prioritizing finding joy and escaping from boredom in their lives over the next six months compared to other Americans.
  • Openness to travel continues to bloom. The level of excitement for learning about new travel experiences or destinations to visit is at a pandemic-period high—one last obtained at the end of May.
  • Unlike early on in the pandemic, now less than 50% of American travelers consider staying in a hotel, Airbnb or home rental, dining in a restaurant, visiting an amusement park or other outdoor attraction, recreating outdoors and shopping to be unsafe. Overall perceptions of travel’s safety remain at the lowest levels they have been during the pandemic.
  • Now just 37% agree they need a vaccine to travel, down from a high of 45% at the start of August.
  • Half as many Americans are saying they are going to change the types of travel destinations they choose to visit post-pandemic than in April, and among those that are saying they will indeed change the types of destinations they choose to visit, more positive reasons are being offered up as to why than in prior months, including an increased willingness to explore new destinations and crossing places off their bucket lists.
  • Americans are also less likely to feel their leisure travel will be dampened by the current state of things.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Save the Dates...

  • October 5-6, 2020TAC Meetings—Meeting agendas and other information will be posted here soon.   
    • October 5, 2020 (2:00-4:00 p.m.)—Research Committee Meeting via Zoom
    • October 6, 2020 (8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)—TAC Meeting via GoToWebinar
  • October 20, 2020—Region/CVB 1st Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • November 25, 2020—Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 18 CVBs and specific industry stakeholders. For assistance or information regarding this call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887.
  • January 20, 2021—Region/CVB 2nd Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • January 1, 2021—Region/CVB Marketing Method Evaluation Reports Due
  • February 8-9, 2021TAC Meeting 
  • April 20, 2021—Region/CVB 3rd Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • June 14-15, 2021TAC Meeting 
  • July 20, 2021—Region/CVB 4th Quarter Financial Reports Due 

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   

6 MIM Companies to Produce ‘Montana Aware’ Masks

The Montana Department of Commerce announced Wednesday that six Made in Montana program members will produce 25,000 masks as part of the state’s “Montana Aware” initiative to promote safe and responsible fall travel.

The following six companies will produce the masks at their Montana-based facilities: Montana Robe Company in Belgrade, Glacier Clothing Company in Columbia Falls, Rebekah Jarvey in Havre, 406 Creative Vibe in Missoula, REcreate Designs in Polson, and Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs.

Made in Montana companies across the state have stepped up during the pandemic to provide goods and services to keep people healthy and safe,” Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “This partnership is an opportunity to support local small businesses, promote the important Montana Aware message to visitors, and continue to encourage responsible public health practices.” Read the full press release here

Montana Film Office

MINT (Montana International Film Festival)

Establishing itself as Montana’s premier international film festival, the Montana International Film Festival, aka MINT, did not let a global pandemic keep it from going dark. Instead, MINT extended its Billings, Montana-based event to four weeks, September 17-October 10, with limited in-person screenings and added an extensive virtual viewing menu. However, for now, screenings in Red Lodge, Montana, will be on hold until 2021. For viewing options an more information visit MINTFILMFESTIVAL.ORG

Three Times is a MINT Charm

The tremendous success of the past two years has led to substantial growth for MINT. This year, an array of panel discussions and digital networking opportunities are available to more attendees than in the past. This includes a robust slate of 130 films submitted from 20 countries, four panels featuring industry professionals, and over 30 virtual conversations with directors and stars. Joining MINT as a sponsor in 2019, Tito’s Handmade Vodka stepped up for MINT’s extended, virtual, and limited on-site attendance to be the 2020 presenting sponsor.

The 2020 hybrid festival opened on Thursday, September 17, in-person at The Historic Billings Depot with a screening of “Montana Connections,” which featured nine short narrative and documentary films from Montana including Braveheart; Wooly Tradition; Xylem; The Heart of the Tree; The Botanist; The Day the Sun Died; Cold Call; Crow Country: Our Right to Food Sovereignty; The Perfect Candidate; and Anxiety.

This Montana-based short film program was extremely well received, especially on the Festival’s streaming platform. “In the first 24-hours of the MINT, more than 350 streams were signed on for the opening of the festival,” said MINT Executive Director Brian Murnion. “That’s over 82 hours of films. It’s a great start to the festival.” Read more from Film Threat here

International Marketing

Go West Summit Virtual Conference

Montana was represented by Kim Birrell at Go West Summit in early September. This event was held virtually and was rescheduled from March, originally to be a face-to-face event held in Portland, Oregon.

This annual international travel trade event connects tour operators and media from more than 25 countries with destinations from 18 western states. Appointments were pre-scheduled and were held over the course of five days to allow buyers and sellers from many time zones to connect. The expanded thirty-minute appointment format allowed for more opportunity to discuss how COVID has affected business across the globe, as well as allowing for more in-depth destination development. Leads are available by contacting Kim at

Heritage/Cultural News

Montana Historical Society

One of our Made in Montana products, Montana The Magazine of Western History, has produced its first ever digital issue on African Americans in Montana and the West. It is available to all for free!

This special digital issue focuses on African American history in Montana and the diversity of Black experiences in the West. We draw attention to this history with a selection of articles from the past twenty-five years of Montana The Magazine of Western History, excerpts from two MHS Press books, an update on the State Historic Preservation Office’s African American Heritage Resources project, and a new essay from Herbert Ruffin II on the state of the field.

Magazine Editor Diana Di Stefano remarked: “I want to offer a huge thanks to everyone who contributed to this important project: historic in its content and historic in terms of the magazine’s publication history.”

We hope you will take some time to explore the articles that make-up Montana’s first online publication and that you will help spread the word about this free resource from the Montana Historical Society. Click here to read the Summer 2020 digital issue. 

Outdoor Recreation

Giant Springs

Montana State Parks Sees Steady Visitation for the First Six Months of 2020

Montana State Parks recorded 1.4 million visitors from January through June of this year. Compared with same time period last year, visitation increased by 25.4 percent. While visitation increased at nearly 80 percent of state parks across Montana, there were several parks that experienced a drop-in visitation due to facility closures, as well as the lack of school field trips and group activities attributable to COVID-19.

Montana is fortunate to have these opportunities and FWP is committed to making sure they are available for visitors across Montana, especially during a time of uncertainty,” said Beth Shumate, Division Administrator for Montana State Parks. “The state park system provides incredible opportunities which can foster invaluable mental and physical health benefits. Through our numerous cultural and historical parks, visitors can also enjoy a wide range of educational and interpretive opportunities both in-person and now virtually. Our staff and volunteers have gone above and beyond to ensure that parks have remained open for all during this unprecedented pandemic, meeting expectations, interests, and needs of communities and citizens across the state.”

The top five most visited parks between January and June of this year were:

  • Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls - 199,774 visits (up 7.1%)
  • Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake - 159,640 visits (up 29.6%)
  • Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts - 149,650 visits (up 39.9%)
  • Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 120,747 visits (up 50.7%)
  • Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 79,659 visits (up 29.5%)

Read the full press release here.

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

MontanaSupport For Southern Passenger Rail Line In Montana Gains Steam—Efforts to restore a southern passenger rail line in Montana are gaining speed. Advocates say it would draw in visitors, provide more transportation options and create jobs.

Jason Stuart, the executive director of the Dawson County Economic Development Council, said a passenger train connecting Glendive to places like Chicago and Seattle would be an economic boon for eastern Montana. “We see a lot of economic opportunity for drawing more visitors through Glendive and through the whole of eastern Montana, whether they’re into badlands and dinosaurs or they’re Lewis and Clark fans. They want to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail but want to do it on the train,” Stuart said. Read more from MTPR here.

YellowstoneYellowstone has Second-Busiest August, Tourism Still Down—Yellowstone National Park had its second-busiest August on record but tourism is still down substantially this year.

In August, Yellowstone had about 882,000 recreation visitors, up 7.5% compared to August 2019. From January through August, Yellowstone had about 2.5 million visitors, down 18% from the same period in 2019. Read more from NBC Montana here



Why the Census Matters

An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state – overall, more than $2 billion from 300 federal programs is allocated back to Montana based on Census information. The Census count also shapes local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Montanans who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so by going to MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020, or by mailing in their Census form if they received one in the mail.


Deadline Approaching for Meetings Market Co-op Study

Destination Analysts is conducting an in-depth study of meeting planners, including the destination marketing and advertising tactics they feel are most successful at motivating them to book business. DMOs have the opportunity to co-operatively participate in the study and get destination specific insights into how they fare as a meetings destination in the eyes of planners, as well as have their advertising evaluated. Please sign-up by October 5th to be included. More information is available here

Funding Resources

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Grants Available!

The Montana Invasive Species Council is now accepting grant applications to fund aquatic invasive species projects. Up to $50,000 is available per project to Montana communities or local, state, tribal, or other entities within the state and to Montana-based non-governmental entities.
AIS grants are intended to increase local capacity and involvement to address AIS issues.

Locally-led proposals that address the state-wide priorities will receive ranking preference, however all eligible grant requests will be evaluated and considered. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on October 19, 2020. For more information or to apply, click here

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 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 13-15, 2020—MEDA Fall Conference "We're in this Together" (Virtual)—The MEDA Fall Conference is designed to bring you maximum information with minimum Zoom fatigue. You may register for all three segments of content and pop in and out as you choose. You will not want to miss the MEDA 2020 Awards, candidate forums, Tell Us Something, legislative strategy time, and the latest on the Montana Next Generation of Community and Economic Development Tools next steps. More details coming your way soon - save the date!

October 13-15, 2020—The 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit: Building Resiliency for the Future (Virtual)—Hosted by the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council, and Montana Trails Coalition, The 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit will be an 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. The summit will offer tools that will help facilitate interaction between attendees and create concrete opportunities to utilize and integrate into future work. 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

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