Friday Flash 10/16/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Marketing Method Evaluation/End-of-Year Reporting 

Thank you to those tourism partners who have begun the fiscal year 2020 required reporting. This annual process is not only an opportunity to verify and analyze the use of lodging tax funds, but also where the organizations tell the many success stories and share best practices through the evaluation of each marketing method where funds were spent.

Completing the Budget to Actual Comparison report and updated pie chart is an essential first piece. Tourism Regions and CVBs are encouraged to work on reporting and submit early enough in order to have time to edit and update as needed. One-on-one assistance is available. The Marketing Plan Segments section for all organizations has been opened for editing for FY20.

Marketing Method Evaluation reporting must be completed by the January 1, 2021 deadline. Organizations are encouraged to review the updated Rules and Procedures in effect for FY20; there are several changes in reporting requirements. Visit the Tourism Regions, CVBs and Partners Resources page for updated resources and Marketing Method Evaluation documents including template language that may be customized for each organization. For assistance, please contact Kev Campbell or Barb Sanem.


Montana Aware Toolkit

New Explore Responsibly materials are now available in the Montana Aware toolkit. New, free resources include printable flyers, PSA templates, a sample press release, social media copy and more! 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.

Workforce Recovery Program

The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) Workforce Recovery program is designed to support Montana businesses that had to lay-off employees and/or reduce the hours of the employee to part-time status due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Commerce will reimburse Montana businesses based on the growth of jobs up to pre COVID-19 levels.

The Workforce Recovery program will reimburse a business for the wages of full-time, permanent jobs that are created and retained for at least six months, up to a maximum of 25 jobs per business. Businesses apply directly to the program. A reimbursement of up to $7,500 per job is available to businesses in high-poverty counties. The business must match $3,750 per job. A reimbursement of up to $5,000 per job, with a $5,000 match, is available for businesses in all other counties.

Please reference the guidelines for further information on the program. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is exhausted or December 31, 2020, whichever comes first. For more information or to apply, click here

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 October 12 from Destination Analysts

More Americans than ever during the pandemic period are recalling travel advertising and saying these ads are making them very happy—and seeing masked travelers in travel ads is a positive. Meanwhile, airlines’ potential induction of mandatory COVID-19 tests prior to boarding looks like it will help move more hesitant travelers back to flying.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • American travelers’ concerns about the novel coronavirus moved back up this week after decreasing last week, and with virus records occurring in the Midwest, Wisconsin has become one of the top destinations people talk about as having coronavirus issues.
  • Nevertheless, consumer aspiration and demand for travel continues to express itself. Approximately 80% of American travelers continue to report that they have at least tentative trip plans right now and at least a quarter of American travelers report that leisure travel will be an essential or high priority in their spending in the next three months.
  • More Americans than any other time during the pandemic period are now open to discounting as a travel motivator.
  • The perception of travel activities as unsafe declined again to a new pandemic period low this week, inching closer to where perceptions were March 15th.
  • More American travelers than ever during the pandemic period are now able to recall recent travel advertising and, more importantly, there has also been a 10% increase in the last three months of the number of American travelers who say the most recent travel ad they saw made them “very happy”.
  • Americans are seeking honesty but friendliness in their travel advertising; something that strikes an authoritative tone is largely seen as a turn-off.
  • Nearly 70% feel positive or very positive about seeing travelers with facemasks in travel ads, while less than 10% have a negative response.
  • In looking at trust to provide the information needed to travel safely, in addition to their friends and relatives, traveling Americans are placing the relatively highest degrees of trust in official tourism organizations, including state tourism offices and local convention & visitors bureaus.
  • In looking towards the recovery of the airline industry, among the more than 40 percent of American travelers who still feel stronger hesitation about travel, nearly 77% of this group of travelers say that mandatory COVID-19 tests prior to boarding would be important to getting them to take a flight in the next six months—demonstrating the ability of such measures to get people back to flying.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 18 CVBs and specific industry stakeholders. The calls are held on the fourth Wednesday, every other month from 10:00-11:00 a.m. For assistance or information regarding this call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887.
    • November 25, 2020
    • January 27, 2021
    • March 24, 2021
    • May 26, 2021
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • October 20, 2020—Region/CVB 1st Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • 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 

Tourism Grant Program

Applications for Tourism Grants are now Being Accepted! 

The application cycle for Tourism Grants is now open. The 2021 application cycle will accept applications from eligible entities from October 15 - November 30, 2020.

The Tourism Grant Program funds projects that strengthen Montana’s economy through the development and enhancement of Montana’s tourism and recreation industry. A total of $750,000 is available for projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products that have the potential to increase non-resident visitation.

Projects funded in the 2021 cycle must be completed by June of 2022. Entities in Montana that are eligible to apply for a Tourism Grant include registered non-profit 501(c) organizations and city, tribal or county governments.

Funds will be awarded to tourism and recreation projects that fall within the categories of:

  • Arts/Culture /Heritage Preservation: projects that preserve, protect, or restore Montana’s arts, culture, and/or heritage treasures
  • Visitor Facility Upgrades/Construction: projects that will enhance the non-resident visitor experience and increase expenditures
  • Niche Product Development: projects of interest to non-resident visitors as identified in Montana Destination Brand Research Study

For more information or to apply for a grant, visit  visit MARKETMT.COM/TOURISMGRANTS.

Tourism Grant Program Webinar

To assist in preparing an application for the 2021 grant cycle, we are hosting a webinar training and workshop to provide an overview of the program including updates, guidelines, timeline, and an overview of the application. This workshop also provides an opportunity to answer questions about potential projects. The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21 from 10:00-11:30 a.m. To register for the webinar, click here.  

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   

MIM Members in the News

Small Polson Business Gets Statewide Attention

REcreate Designs is among six Montana businesses commissioned to create “Montana Aware” masks as part of the state’s efforts to promote safe fall and winter travel.

Creating 5,000 masks for the contract is almost second nature to business owner CarolLynn Lapotka. After all, she’s been at it for more than six months. Back in mid-March, Lapotka was showing her line of clothing, REcreate Designs, to wholesale buyers at the annual Made in Montana Trade Show in Helena when the next day’s public show was abruptly canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

Back home, a friend of hers, who’s a nurse, called with an urgent request: “Can you make something for us? We really need to protect ourselves.”

Lapotka, whose entire career is built on creativity and problem solving, went to work designing masks. She looked at patterns online, then starting modifying and testing them on her husband, assistant Lake County Attorney James Lapotka, and her two children. The face wear had to be comfortable, breathable and – for frontline personnel especially – needed to include an interior pocket for tucking in an N95 filter. Read more from the Valley Journal here.

Two Bitterroot Meat Processing Facilities Provided Grants for Expansion
Two meat processing facilities in the Bitterroot Valley were recently awarded grants to upgrade their operations.

For the Double K Ranch west of Darby, the grant will offer it the chance to be one the few operations in Montana that can offer its customers a product raised, butchered and processed at the same site.

For Dillon Kouf, it’s an opportunity to make his father’s dream come true. Jim Kouf grew up on a small cattle ranch. It had horses, cattle, pigs and chickens and a Chevy pickup with a gear shift on the column. “It’s where I learned to ride horses, drive trucks, and explore,” Jim Kouf wrote. “So this ranch was a paradise for me. An adventure just waiting out the back door.”

Dillon Kouf said his Fifth Season Montana Charcuterie — a French word that refers to cold cooked meats — is one of two in the state producing products like beef salami, Bresaola, lamb chorizo and pork pancetta. “We try to use all local meats,” he said. “If we don’t raise it on the ranch, we try to get it from somewhere in Montana.”

The Hamilton Packing Company also received a $150,000 grant to purchase equipment and modify its facility to increase cold storage and processing capacity. Read more the the Ravalli Republic here

Outdoor Recreation

Application Period for Recreation Grant Programs Opens November 2

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will begin accepting grant applications for four recreation grant programs on Monday, November 2, at 12:00 p.m. via the online system at

Applications for the following grant programs are due by Monday, February 1, 2021:

  • New! Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program—The MTSGP is a new, state-funded grant program created by the 2019 Legislative Session. Funding for the program comes from $1.37 of Montana’s $9 light vehicle registration fee. FWP expects to award about $1.25 million through this grant in its first year. MTSGP grants can be used to construct or maintain motorized and non-motorized trails or trail-related facilities.
  • New! Summer Motorized Trail Pass Grant Program—A new grant program funded through the creation of the resident OHV Trail Pass, created by the 2019 Legislative Session. FWP expects to award about $235,000 in the first year of the grant. Non-federal entities are eligible for this grant to use for the maintenance of OHV trails on public lands.
  • Recreational Trails Program—The RTP is a federally funded grant program with about $1.5 million awarded annually to construct or maintain motorized and non-motorized trails or trail-related facilities, purchase trail equipment, and development trail education or ethics programs.
  • Off-Highway Vehicle Grant Program—This is a state-funded grant program that provides project funding to enhance and maintain OHV recreational opportunities for the benefit of OHV enthusiasts in Montana. It awards about $150,000 annually.

In total, these four grant programs provide over $3 million for recreation projects across Montana.

FWP is offering virtual training sessions for prospective applicants from October through January. These sessions are free and highly recommended for new and returning applicants to any of the four grant programs. During the training, FWP staff will provide tips on writing a competitive application, using the grant management software to submit an application, and understanding differences and similarities between programs. Online trainings via Zoom will be held on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020: 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 5, 2020: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 8, 2020: 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 7, 2021: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

For more information on attending a grant application training session or applying to one of these opportunities, visit STATEPARKS.MT.GOV/RECREATION.  For full press release, click here


Unique Bird Watching in Central Montana: Plenty of Space to Explore Safely

There is no doubt that Montana offers some of the most impressive landscapes, wildlife, and recreation in the country. As a Montana resident, you have all of this right outside your back door! With social distancing a priority for Montanans, there are still plenty of experiences throughout the state worth exploring. One is the unique bird-watching opportunities in Central Montana.

The diverse landscapes of Central Montana make it the perfect location for bird watching. The east and west mix so Montanans from both sides of the state can find something new. Rolling grasslands, lush river bottoms, picturesque lakes, and dramatic mountain peaks provide varied habitats to view some of the west's most beautiful bird species.

Observe colorful ringneck pheasants, the intense stare of the great horned owl, vibrant chatter of the community of songbirds and carefree waterfowl, all at home in their habitats. Birding trails are located in some of Central Montana's most iconic landmarks, such as the Rocky Mountain Front, the Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River, and First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, where you might spot some impressive birds of prey. Read more from NBC Montana here.

Skiing, Snowboarding in COVID-19 Era Will be Different

Ticket restrictions, no singles lift line and face mask requirements are some of the conditions skiers and snowboarders might face this winter when their favorite ski areas open. “At the end of the day it’s nice we’re talking about recreating outdoors and not hospital capacity,” said Jeff Schmidt, manager of Red Lodge Mountain ski area.

Most ski areas closed following the COVID-19 outbreak in March, about a month earlier than normal. Larger areas like Big Sky Resort regrouped and opened up using distancing and mask protocols for summer visitors, providing some experience in dealing with the novel coronavirus.

Following a meeting of the Montana Ski Area Association in August, managers of Montana’s 15 mountains have agreed on consistent signage related to distancing in lines and wearing face masks, Schmidt said. That’s in addition to complying with county health officer’s best practices. Read more from the Billings Gazette here.

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

TroyTroy Residents, Officials Brainstorm ways to Promote the City—A community improvement event spearheaded by a state association brought Troy residents and local officials together in search of concrete projects to promote the city. Organizers with the Montana Economic Developers Association led the Sept. 28 brainstorm meeting. The session was held at the Troy Branch of the Lincoln County Library and broadcast via Zoom.

After conducting listening sessions and town hall meetings earlier this month, the association members narrowed conversations down to how Troy could improve housing, youth and family services, broadband connectivity and access to natural resources. Read more from The Western News here

YellowstoneYellowstone Park Reports Most-Ever September Visitors—Yellowstone National Park has reported that it had the most-ever September visitors. The increase contrasts sharply with May, when visitation rates were 90% lower compared to the same month last year. The park recorded about 837,000 visits in September, a rate 21% higher than September 2019 and 15.6% higher than the park’s second-busiest September on record in 2018, when it hosted 724,000 people. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here.

Funding Resources

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Grants Deadline 10/19/20!

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

Other Dates/Events to Note

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