Friday Flash 12/18/2020

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Lone Mtn Ranch

Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Please note there will be no Friday Flash on December 25 or January 1. Wishing you all a Happy Holiday Season!

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

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. Only a few days remain due to the upcoming holidays and MOTBD staffing will be limited.


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. 

COVID-19 Relief Funding

Transparency Dashboard 

The state of Montana's dynamic dashboard shows the Coronavirus Relief Fund grants awarded to businesses and nonprofits. 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of December 14 from Destination Analysts

Americans’ anxiety about the coronavirus came on strong again this week, hammering travel sentiment for the near-term. However, news of imminent vaccines is once again having a profound impact on Americans’ outlook for 2021.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • After dipping last week, Americans’ anxiety about the coronavirus came on strong again this week—both from a personal health and financial standpoint.
  • These anxieties are hammering sentiment about travel right now. Rather than skewing towards readiness, Americans’ travel mindset is now evenly split between readiness and hesitation. Travel guilt, loss of interest in traveling for the time being, and agreement travel should be limited to essential needs only have all increased, while likelihood to travel over the next three months has decreased. Nearing two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel over the next three months. Such sentiments have led to inevitable behaviors–48.4% report they cancelled or postponed a trip specifically because of this current surge.
  • Positive vaccine news is appearing to have a profound affect. 58.9% of Americans are back to feeling that the vaccine developments make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months, while 51.0% say the vaccines makes them more optimistic they can travel safely by then.
  • The pandemic has, unsurprisingly, most weakened Americans’ sense of physical safety, as well as, sadly, their excitement about the future. However, an important percentage of Americans feels the pandemic has strengthened their feeling of being loved by others, and made them feel proud of themselves.
  • Americans continue to exhibit receptivity to travel marketing for future trips. 50.1% continued to show higher degrees of excitement about taking a getaway soon, and 45.7% continue to have higher levels of openness to travel inspiration. The percent of Americans who recalls seeing a travel advertisement recently has risen steadily since May.
  • Looking at the preferred channels for travel inspiration among those Americans most ready to travel, Facebook and Instagram, search engines and email campaigns is where these travelers will be most receptive.
  • The percent of American travelers who have at least tentative plans to attend a convention or conference in the next year has risen to 23.5% from 15.7% two months ago. Comfort attending these events starts to grow in June 2021 and continues throughout the subsequent months.
  • In our many recent interviews of meeting planners, it looks like hybrid events will be a norm in 2021. Fortunately, among those who have traveled for conventions in the last two years, 51.7% say they prefer in-person events. Yet, greater than one in five of these travelers (22.0%) say they prefer hybrid meetings. However, the destination in which a meeting is held could still sway a preference for in-person.

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 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.

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 funding opportunities and news 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   

Montana Film News

Butte is Going Hollywood as more Filmmakers Work in the City

Lights, camera, action - With the film industry working in Butte, local artists are getting some very interesting work. “My friend Sam Debris came up last night and he goes, ‘we need to make it so that we can impale somebody with a plow,’” said Butte artist Rob McClain.

Several film and television products have been working in Butte over the past several months providing an abundance of work for local arts and skilled laborers. “We turned Matt’s Dine into a donut shop, this is movie magic. It’s something different every day and you don’t know what you’re going to be doing,” said McClain.

One production has rented out the Butte Civic Center and has built a set on the arena floor to be used in a feature-length film. Each production brings many people to Butte and helps the local economy. Read more from KTVQ here

Heritage/Cultural News

Groups Seek National Historic Trail Designation for Bozeman Trail

Two nonprofits in Montana and Wyoming are organizing a campaign to get the Bozeman Trail designated as a National Historic Trail, something they hope will help preserve the rich history behind the route. The Fort Phil Kearny Bozeman Trail Association out of Banner, Wyoming, and Our Montana out of Billings are contacting legislators in both states to gather support for the proposal.

After they’re done reaching out to state and county lawmakers, the groups plan to pitch their idea to Congress. A federal delegation could direct the secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine whether the trail deserves a designation. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here

Outdoor Recreation

Montana Officials Ban Motorized Use on Shields River

Montana officials unanimously banned motorized use on the Shields River Thursday, though some were wary about the rule’s effects on public access and recreation.

The new rule will prohibit the use of jet boats and other motorized vessels on the Shields River from its headwaters in the Crazy Mountains to its confluence with the Yellowstone River east of Livingston. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve it at a virtual meeting. The rule will go into effect once it is filed with the Montana Secretary of State. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here

With Virus Limits at Ski Resorts, Backcountry Risks Beckon

Ben Werner glided up the craggy mountain bowl between Hardscrabble Peak and Frazier Basin in the Bridgers, his heels lifting off his skis with every step. He paused periodically to assess his route up the slope.

Before Werner ascended the bowl, he'd tested the snow's stability on a small hill with a similar slant and aspect. He directed his skis toward the hillside and coasted along, looking around for any signs of cracks or slides. The snow held. He continued his path upward. In backcountry skiing, deciding where to climb up or ski down a slope can be the difference between life and death. And the mountains are deceiving. Read more from the Billings Gazette here

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

WhitefishHow One Small Montana Tourism Business Pulled Through Pandemic Summer—Many small tourism dependent businesses around Montana didn’t know if they would make it through the summer with the looming pandemic. But with state level relief grants, many eked by, and some were busier than they expected. One business owner managed to navigate the complicated summer. Now she’s looking ahead to an uncertain winter.

In mid March, the phone rang nonstop at Whitefish Bike Retreat, a 19 acre camping haven that sits at the intersection of coast to coast cycling routes and a cherished local trail system outside Whitefish, people were calling to cancel their summer reservations. Then, when the phone and world fell silent for two weeks, owner Cricket Butler thought she might have to close her doors.

Butler credits Montana’s Business Stabilization Grant for helping keep her doors open. The Department of Commerce provided grants to about 11,500 Montana businesses with aid totaling $188 million. The grant allowed her to hire back two staff members, pay rent and refund customers who had to cancel. All things considered, by midsummer Butler was happy with the changes. Read more from Yellowstone Public Radio here

MissoulaConcert Shutdowns Costing Downtown Missoula Tens of Millions of Dollars—The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of Missoula's concert scene isn't just an inconvenience for fans. It also could be costing local businesses as much as $100 million in lost revenue.

Logjam Presents owner and president Nick Checota believes residents can help by bringing their support -- and their wallets -- to help downtown weather the storm. The pandemic has shutdown of Missoula growing concert scene is having a profound impact, not just on the venues themselves, but all the surrounding businesses. “That kind of bringing people into the into town center enjoying all the food that we have now, all these great restaurants, we have now going to the bars and then go into the show," Checota said. "That's all lost right now and I think people are feeling it for sure.” Read more from KPAX here


ITRR Publishes New Reports

Montana Residents' Perceptions of Visitors' Behaviors: The Summer of 2020 Compared to Years PastThis report is a summary of Montana residents’ perceptions concerning visitors’ behavior prior to and during the summer of the 2020 pandemic. Data were collected from October 1st to November 7th of 2020. As a result of the pandemic, the number of people participating in outdoor recreation in certain parts of the country has increased significantly, with surrounding national parks like Yellowstone and Glacier experiencing record visitation counts throughout the summer and fall. The pandemic has dramatically changed travel and tourism patterns in the state, with visitors flocking to Montana to enjoy the wide expanse of recreational opportunities. Anecdotal evidence from tourism partners suggested that visitors to the state were different this year, and residents appeared less enthusiastic about them being in Montana. This study was conducted to determine if residents’ perceptions about visitors’ behaviors have changed when comparing the summer of 2020 to years past. Read the full report here

Executive Summary – Upper Yellowstone River Monitoring: Usage and User CharacteristicsRecreational usage, both fishing and non-fishing, on Montana waterways has grown in the number of users and types of activities over the years. Already, commercial usage is monitored or managed on several Montana rivers including the Madison, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot. The purpose of this study was to conduct exploratory methods that can provide baseline data of all river users on the Upper Yellowstone River (UYR) as a pilot study and guide for future monitoring on other Montana waterways. Click here for the executive summary. To read the full report for Upper Yellowstone River Monitoring, click here

Other News

All Montana Calls Will Soon Need a 406 to Connect

As the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline prepares for quick dial, Montana and 36 other states are having to tune up their phone numbers to accommodate the new 988 help line.

The three-digit crisis number happens to be the same three-digit number that many people with a Dillon 988 prefix have. The fix will require all Montanans to use the 406 area code for all phone calls, local and long distance.

The new 988 lifeline will work nationwide the same way the 911 emergency number does, starting July 16, 2022. Calling 988 from anywhere should connect the caller with nearby suicide prevention assistance.

The Montana Public Service Commission staff said Friday that everyone should start using the 406 area code for all Montana calls beginning April 24, 2021. Beginning in Oct. 24, 2021, Montana calls without the 406 area code won’t be connected. Read more from the Ravalli Republic here

Reimagining Tourism: Will COVID-19 Help DMOs Conquer Fear of Change

Fear is a primary barrier to making the changes that the travel industry – and your DMO – most desperately need during this double crisis.

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

The travel industry dearly needs new steps and new words from its leaders. Dostoyevsky’s observation rings true: In this time of change, fear is everywhere. COVID-19 has revealed how fragile human systems are, whether in travel, tourism, economics, politics, or destination marketing organizations (DMOs). The disease has, at a grand scale, forced travel to pause. It has grounded airplanes and slowed movement precisely when the climate crisis demands full attention. In this moment of relative stasis, difficult as it is, the travel industry can reset and grow back while building greater resilience.

Amid fear and loss, many travel leaders, including destination marketers, continue to clamour for a better way forward. Those destinations facing an economic emergency are doing everything they can to mitigate the damage to businesses and livelihoods. And yet, while weathering the health crisis, more destination marketers are thinking about how to reimagine tourism, because they know they need to, pandemic or not. Read more from the Destination Think! blog here

DEQ Encouraging Electric Vehicle Usage Through More Fast-Charging Stations

In an effort to improve Montana’s overall air quality, officials with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) say they’re encouraging more electric vehicles to hit the roads through new charging stations statewide.

The ‘Fast Charge Your Ride’ grant allows businesses to install these stations near stops along popular roads and interstates within 30-to-90 miles of each other

“We identified key target communities and travel corridors based on where there are electric vehicles in Montana, where there’s a lot of travel,” said Energy Resource Professional Neal Ullman with Montana DEQ’s Energy Office. “That would include the entire length of I-90 and entire length of I-15.”

Making these sites more available creates more seamless trips, said Ullman, lowering drivers’ worries around possibly losing power and getting stranded. This concern is also known as ‘range anxiety.’ Read more from Montana Right Now 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 grant application 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