Friday Flash 12/11/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Marketing Method Evaluation/End-of-Year Reporting Must be Completed by the January 1, 2021 Deadline! 

Thank you to the Regions and CVBs for their time and attention given to the required marketing method evaluation reporting that is due in just three weeks. This important work is always time-consuming and given the unusual past several months associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is even more challenging. We recognize this and are equally dedicated to assisting the organizations in reaching success in the accurate, complete and timely reporting.

By now organizations should have submitted initial reporting and follow-up responses. As a reminder, the marketing method evaluation reporting for each previous fiscal year is reviewed by MOTBD staff and the Tourism Advisory Council per statute with the process being completed by January 1 of each year.

Resources and assistance are available and best practices are continually identified and shared. 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.


Montana Aware Badge

Montana Aware Toolkit

Montana Aware is a statewide effort designed to help Montana's tourism partners and local businesses slow the spread of COVID-19 by promoting safety measures for those traveling in the state. You can find the downloadable toolkit and other resources at MARKETMT.COM

As part of the CARES Tourism Safety Grant program, our Tourism Regions and CVBs have utilized funds to distribute information in fun and creative ways in their efforts to keep Montana residents and visitors safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

Workforce Recovery Grants Awarded to 20 Montana Businesses

The Montana Department of Commerce announced Wednesday that 20 Montana businesses have been awarded Workforce Recovery grants to rehire employees laid off due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The businesses will share $895,000 to support rehiring 152 full-time employees.

Commerce launched the temporary Workforce Recovery program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support businesses that are ready to rehire workers,” said Wayne Johnston, Business Assistance Bureau Chief at Commerce. “This program is reimbursing businesses across Montana for rebuilding their workforce and bringing jobs back.”

The Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund 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. To read the full story from the Montana Department of Commerce click here.

COVID-19 Relief Funding

Transparency Dashboard Updated Weekly

The state of Montana's dynamic dashboard shows the Coronavirus Relief Fund grants awarded to businesses and nonprofits. This dashboard will be updated regularly until all grant dollars have been expended. 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of December 7 from Destination Analysts

When asked which domestic destinations (if any) are you planning to visit or considering visiting next year (2021), 4.9% of the respondents said Yellowstone. To watch the full presentation and panel discussion, click here

While gloominess about the near-term still weighs heavy, American travelers look to a 2021 with 3 leisure trips, going to new places, enjoying nature and even work and school-cations for some.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • While 73.4% of Americans continue to have a high degree of concern about their friends or family contracting the virus, those with similar concerns about personally contracting the virus declined to 66.7%.
  • Nevertheless, Americans largely see the last month of 2020 as one in which the pandemic situation is going to worsen. In fact, Americans’ comfort going out for leisure activities even within their own community has declined for the last 3 weeks.
  • The current state of the pandemic has eroded Americans’ confidence that travel can be done safely.
  • The gloominess combined with more clarity on timelines for production and distribution appear to have muted some of the strong hope initially felt about a COVID vaccine. The percent who say the recent vaccine developments have made them more optimistic that they can travel safely in the next six months has declined to 46.0% from 52.5% three weeks ago.
  • Americans’ current sentiment has some impact on marketability for travel. Those in a travel readiness state of mind dropped to 52.5% from 55.5% in the last week, and those that can be motivated by discounts and price cuts to travel in the near-term dropped to 36.0% after hitting 40.3% two weeks ago.
  • However, Americans also still demonstrate openness to travel messaging. Those that agree that they have lost their interest in travel for the time being dropped to 43.1% from a high of 50.0% last week. And after consistently declining for a month, the proportion excited to learn about new, exciting travel experiences or destinations to visit improved to 44.2%.
  • About 80% of American travelers took at least one trip in 2020, with an average of 2.9 leisure trips reported.
  • Over 47% say they will prioritize leisure travel in their personal budget in 2021.
  • Americans plan on taking about 3 leisure trips on average in 2021—primarily to cities, small towns and beaches. One-in-five of these travelers anticipate at least one of these trips will be international. In terms of the actual experiences they will prioritize, spending time with loved ones, getting away from crowds, enjoying nature, going to new places they haven’t been before, excitement and energy, as well as budget travel will be top.
  • Well over a third of Americans whose job allows them to telecommute say they are likely to take a “workcation” in 2021. Meanwhile, 29.4% of Americans who travel with school-aged children say they are likely to take a “schoolcation.”
  • As to the most popular destinations Americans plan to visit in 2021, Florida, New York, Las Vegas and California look to remain tourism powerhouses.

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 406.438.7011. 
    • January 27, 2021
    • March 24, 2021
    • May 26, 2021
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • December 30, 2020—Final Day for Tourism Safety Grant Expenditures
  • January 1, 2021—Region/CVB Marketing Method Evaluation Reports Due
  • January 20, 2021—Region/CVB 2nd Quarter Financial 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

2021 Tourism Grant Application Update

The 2021 Tourism Grant applications are currently being evaluated by a review team comprised of staff members from the Industry Services & Outreach Bureau, the Office of Indian Country Economic Development, and Community Development Division as well as two members of the Montana Tourism Advisory Council.

Applications are reviewed and scored based on the following:

  1. How well the applicant would market the proposed project upon completion to measure the impact to non-resident visitors.
  2. Proposed projects that are identified by the community as key tourism development projects in a community, strategic, or tourism/recreational plan.
  3. Proposed projects that are supported by tourism and community partners.

Other factors that may affect the success of an application or the amount of a potential award is the frequency of previous grants to an organization/entity or the amount of previous grants to a community. A high-level of concentration is also given to rural communities, under-served regions of Montana, and to tribal communities.

We anticipate making an announcement of 2021 awarded tourism grants by late January. We encourage you to subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce for other and future funding opportunities by clicking here.

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we encourage you to support your local businesses when possible. 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 Highlights

Adventures with Vrah—Adventures With Vrah is a webcomic created by Made in Montana member Sarah Weaver. Sarah grew up in Billings, and now lives in Polson. She created the poster "What 6 feet looks like in Montana" reflecting her experiences growing up in Montana. Sarah says, “The cartoon about 6 feet of snow on the Going-to-the-Sun-Road displays Montana's long winters and ever-changing weather. The bear saying "I'm going back to sleep" is how I feel when I see snow in June. The fisherman holding the "6-foot fish" is inspired by the way my dad taught me to hold a fish.” The poster is available as a free digital download by clicking here.

6 ft MT
Soula Box

Last Best Supply Co.—Made in Montana member Brooke Blacker (Last Best Supply Co.) is working in collaboration with women owned businesses in Missoula in the development of a new project called Soula Box. They are assembling Montana Made items from each of the businesses into gift boxes for the holidays. They will also be raising money to deliver gift boxes to local healthcare workers in thanks for all the hard work they are doing. To learn more about this project, visit SOULABOX.COM

Group Tour Marketing

Leads from NTA vTREX Event Now Available

The National Tour Association converted their 2020 annual face-to-face convention to a virtual event vTREX was held in November and Kim Birrell represented Montana. She met virtually with about 17 tour operators from the US and Canada. Although most tour business was cancelled in 2020 or rescheduled for 2021, many tour operators remain optimistic and are looking for new itineraries and unique product to entice travelers. To request leads or get more information, contact Kim Birrell

Outdoor Recreation

Montana Access Project Path Ahead Webinar Series:

December 15, 2020 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.)—Outdoor Recreation in Choteau: Yes, WeCAN—In this webinar, panelists will discuss the WeCAN steps that Choteau went through to position itself to compete successfully for tourism and other grants to support its outdoor recreation projects. For more information or to register for this webinar, click here

Engaging Children in Nature Through Trails

Spending time on trails not only helps a child's mental and physical development, it can also help create healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Exposure to the outdoors benefits children in a number of ways, and creating a love for the outdoors in children can help them for life. The National Wildlife Federation released information on exactly why outdoor play is so vital for children, including:

  • Body
    • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an
      important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
    • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from
      future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
    • Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of
  • Mind
    • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD
    • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized
      tests in math, reading, writing and listening.
    • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student
      performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.
  • Spirit
    • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
    • Play protects children’s emotional development.
    • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships. 

By teaching your children at an early age to appreciate trails you can help create a lifelong bond with nature that will stay with them and help them grow into adults who love the outdoors. Not all children or adults have easy access to an outdoor space such as a yard, but trails are for everyone, and by learning to love trails your child will be able to build a relationship with the outdoors no matter where they live. This is why American Trails has always supported and advocated for having a trail within 15 minutes of every American, so everyone really can access the outdoors. Read more from American Trails here

Montana Invasive Species Specialists Tackle Feral Swine, Invasive Mussels

Montana’s new hotline for reporting suspected feral swine brought an uptick in reports this year, while boat inspectors both checked a record number of watercraft and documented a record number carrying aquatic invasive mussels.

State, federal and tribal officials charged with curbing the introduction and spread of invasive species met Wednesday as the governor-appointed Montana Invasive Species Council. The council meets several times per year to tackle research, action plans and educational initiatives.

Montana has become increasingly concerned about invasive pigs in recent years as feral animals have been documented just a few miles north of the Montana-Canada border. Feral pigs have not been detected in Montana, but where present, have caused damage to agricultural lands and property. Read more from the Helena Independent Record here

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

BozemanBozeman Christmas Stroll Reimagined—For the past 40 years, the Bozeman community has gathered downtown for the annual Christmas Stroll. Each year, the tradition marks the beginning of the season, with Santa leading the crowd down Main Street as the holiday lights brighten the sky. Food, libations, music, and shopping fill the area as people greet one another, excited for the season and the winter ahead.

This year, the Downtown Business Association has reimagined the event, and there will be no shortage of festivities! Instead, activities occurred December 2-5, 2020, some virtually and some held outside. Read more on how they did it at the Bozeman CVB blog here.

Other News

Will Your Destination's Legacy Travel Markets Evaporate?

COVID-19-related regulations are probably causing your destination’s travel markets to change. But are your newest visitors the right match for the long-term? Our Chief Strategist shares his thoughts on how your DMO can mitigate the crisis by balancing short-term fixes with investment toward longer-term travel markets.

Right now, your destination might be cut off from your typical, reliable travel markets. This problem stems from necessary COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting changes to travel behaviour. Even if your borders reopen tomorrow, the growing preference for local experiences and the move away from long-haul travel may have long-lasting consequences on who visits your destination. How can you adapt?

Short-Term Solutions—Don't assume that new markets will know how to behave. Avoid the assumption that new markets should know better. Forced to look elsewhere for visitors, many destinations have focused on the domestic market, earning mixed results. There are valuable lessons in observing how places cater to near-in visitors.

Provide visitor education to all new markets. When you visit someone’s house, you respect their rules. Visitor education does the same by showing that you have a responsibility when you travel. Many of the specific challenges destinations face this year result from people visiting unfamiliar environments.

Long-Term Solutions—New market research into wider markets. Take time to pause. Don’t assume new markets are the same as the old ones. As restrictions gradually ease, your DMO may find an opportunity to target a wider pool of visitors. You’ll be tempted to turn back to your traditional, pre-COVID markets, perhaps alongside niche markets and other marketing considerations from before 2020.

Read more from the Destination Think! blog here

Funding Resources

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

FWP Recreation Grant Program Application Cycle Now Open

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is now accepting grant applications for four recreation grant programs via the online system at

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

  • New! Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program
  • New! Summer Motorized Trail Pass Grant Program
  • Recreational Trails Program
  • Off-Highway Vehicle Grant Program

FWP is offering a virtual training session for prospective applicants. This session is 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.

The online training via Zoom will be held on Thursday, January 7, 2021: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. For more information on attending the training session or applying to one of these opportunities, visit STATEPARKS.MT.GOV/RECREATION.  

Other Dates/Events to Note

January 11-February 28, 2021—Cultural Heritage Tourism Certificate Program (Online)—The Professional Certificate Program in Cultural Heritage Tourism, produced by AIANTA (American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association) in partnership with the George Washington University, is designed to provide tourism entrepreneurs and community leaders with tools to identify assets and develop tourism programs that preserve cultural identity and authenticity.

The online program brings together industry experts who help students explore the importance of including authentic Native American cultural experiences in their tourism planning.

Courses include narrated presentations, live webinars, online discussions and practical tools and resources participants can apply in their day-to-day experiences planning tourism programs. for more information, click here

February 1-2, 2021—Economic Outlook Seminar (Virtual)—For the first time, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana will host its 46th annual Economic Outlook Seminar event, “The Path Forward, How Covid-19 Has Reshaped the Economy,” via video conference. The seminar will include two nationally recognized keynote speakers, and multiple networking and discussion opportunities with local speakers, panelists and fellow attendees.

This two-day virtual event will take place February 1-2, 2021 and will examine the myths and realities of how the economic landscape has been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or to register, click here