Friday Flash 1/8/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

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
  • 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 

Montana Aware Safety Messaging

Montana Aware Badge

Montana Aware Toolkit & Resources

The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development has been hard at work promoting the safety and wellness of our citizens and visitors through the "Montana Aware Campaign".

Businesses wanting additional resources can access the downloadable toolkit and other information at MARKETMT.COM/ISO/Montana-Aware-Toolkit

COVID-19 Relief Funding

Transparency Dashboard 

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

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 4 from Destination Analysts

Americans are embracing travel in their optimism for a better 2021. However, it appears they plan to defer making their travel dreams reality until later in the year.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • After dropping in the latter half of December, Americans pessimistic that the pandemic will get worse in the U.S. in the next month increased this week to 55.9%. As it concerns Americans’ personal anxiety about contracting COVID-19, this decreased in the last week, yet high concerns about their friends and family getting the virus remained stably elevated. Meanwhile, there are rising anxieties about the pandemic’s impact on personal finances and the national economy.
  • Nearly half of Americans say they are not confident they can travel safely in the current environment.
  • Yet travel is a beneficiary of the new year’s hope. Americans highly open to travel inspiration is up over 6% in the last week (52.6%), and Americans in a travel ready state-of-mind returned to 52.9% after dropping below 50% at the end of December. Inversely, loss of interest in travel has retreated 6 percentage points in the last three weeks to 43.3%.
  • The percent of American travelers who say that they will avoid travel until vaccines are widely available has fallen to 46.7%; meanwhile more Americans than ever are saying they will take the vaccine (60.1%).
  • Over 38% of American travelers say they have day-dreamed about taking a trip in the last week and a third have talked to a friend or relative about a future trip. Nearly a quarter of American travelers have researched travel ideas online just in the past week.
  • As Americans look out over their travel year in this first week of January, they cautiously see an average of 3.0 leisure trips in 2021. It appears trips will ramp up beginning in May, peak in July, ramp back down in October and bump up again in December.
  • About 18% anticipate their first trip by commercial airline in 2021 will be in the second quarter (April-June).
  • Aspirations to visit Florida, Las Vegas, New York, California, Hawaii and Colorado remain most common.
  • The majority of Americans do not plan to travel in the next three months—37.5% do. While 84.5% of these trips will indeed be overnight trips, 66.2% will be regional, and over a third of those traveling say they will be staying in the home of a friend or relative. Both cities and small towns and rural areas will most commonly be visited, however the pandemic will still be dictating trip behaviors. 41.3% plan to visit less crowded places and 30.2% plan to visit outdoor-oriented destinations.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

The December 20 report can be found here and for the December 27 report, click here.

Tourism Grant Program

2021 Tourism Grant Update

The 2021 Tourism Grant applications are currently being evaluated by the review team which is 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 in the coming weeks. We encourage you to subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce for other funding opportunities and news by clicking here.


Our Tourism Grants Make a Big Impact in Montana Communities

One of our previous grant recipients, Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild recently received the Governor's Arts Award for 2020. 

Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild has carved an unexpected and unique presence into its 26-acre space just east of Lincoln. Centered around a salvaged teepee burner used in Lincoln’s timber industry, Sculpture in the Wild currently includes 18 permanent, site-specific sculptural installations. In addition, it’s a teaching facility which hosts international artist-in-residency programs and school visits in which students build temporary sculptures of their own from materials found on site. This past year, the park welcomed over 50,000 visitors and has become a Montana and Northwest USA arts destination. 

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   

Grown in Montana

Growing Mushrooms in Science: MSU Grad Launches Gourmet Mushroom Business
When Ben Deuling moved to Bozeman in 2017, he planned to get his Ph.D. in microbiology at Montana State University. He didn’t expect to be miserable. He also didn’t expect to become fascinated with growing mushrooms. “I hated it,” he said of the doctoral program. “I wasn’t bad at it and could have seen it through but I didn’t care about what I was doing.” But Deuling cared about mushrooms.

Shortly after learning how to grow gourmet mushrooms, he converted his basement laundry room into a fully functional mushroom growing operation. “I would go in and stare at this thing I made,” he said. “It spoke really loudly to me. I went really hard into this and I haven’t done that in anything academic for the eight years I’ve been in school.”

Pretty soon, Deuling began dreaming of his own gourmet mushroom business. After about two years of splitting his time between his Ph.D. program and business planning, Deuling’s Spore Attic has been operational since the end of November. His gourmet mushrooms have been sold directly to local restaurants and at the winter farmers market. Read more from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here


Winter Custom Content

For this winter season, MOTBD has a custom content program planned with FREESKIER (which was originally planned for last winter but due to the pandemic was postponed) that is currently running through the end of March. Last winter, FREESKIER produced a three-part road trip content series on skiing Montana, titled Park 2 Park. The crew followed professional skier, Drew Petersen, as he made a road trip around Montana. The adventure took the crew across the state from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park, stopping at some amazing ski areas and charming small towns along the way. You can learn more at

International Travel Trade

RMI Seminar

Save the Date! May 12, 2021: Free International Roundup Supplier Seminar

Hosted by the Great American West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota & South Dakota) & Rocky Mountain International 

Save the date for May 12, 2021, and plan to join us for a free virtual seminar to learn more about the international travel recovery process. This seminar will focus on further education about the international tourism industry and bring in key industry players to speak about everyone’s part in the recovery process through collaborative effort.

We cannot welcome international visitors until our borders open and it is safe to travel again. But we are working toward recovery now. If you are a Montana lodging facility, ranch or activity provider and would like to learn how to attract more international guests, as well as learn about recovery efforts and trends in the international markets, please attend this free webinar. You can be part of the recovery process. Suppliers do not need to have attended International Roundup to benefit from this seminar.

This supplier opportunity will be hosted virtually and is completely free to any supplier. If you have questions, please reach out to Kim Birrell

Tribal News

Commerce Announces $210,000 Awarded for Tribal Business Planning

Tribal Business Planning Grants will Support Tribal Governments and Organizations Undertaking Economic Development Activities

The Montana Department of Commerce on December 18 announced it has awarded a total of $210,000 through the Tribal Business Planning Grant to assist tribes in Montana with planning for business development and economic growth.

The Tribal Business Planning Grant at Commerce supports the economic planning and business growth priorities of tribal governments and organizations in Montana,” said Wayne Johnston, Business Assistance Bureau Chief at Commerce. “As tribes identify opportunities to strengthen their economies, these grants will help their plans come to fruition.”

The Tribal Business Planning Grant program assists tribal governments and organizations to deploy comprehensive business planning strategies. Funds can be used for activities such as business plan development, market analysis, feasibility studies, physical business infrastructure planning, such as zoning, and can be used to match other funding sources to accomplish business growth activities.  

Tribal Business Planning Grants of $30,000 each will be awarded to:

  • Blackfeet Tribe: To conduct a feasibility study for a bottled water company
  • Chippewa Cree Tribe: To conduct a feasibility study and market analysis for a small-scale meat processing facility
  • Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes: To conduct a feasibility study and market analysis for the purchase of the former Big Arm General Store
  • Little Big Horn College on the Crow Reservation: To complete a preliminary engineering report to expand the trades building and programs at the Little Big Horn College
  • Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes: To develop a contemporary zoning and development ordinance
  • Little Shell Chippewa Tribe: To assist with business and operation plans for three businesses under Little Shell Tribal Enterprises, LLC.
  • Northern Cheyenne Tribe: To assist with a business plan, preliminary engineering report and preliminary architectural report to develop a workforce training center

The Tribal Business Planning Grant is one of three proven grant programs within the Office of Indian Country Economic Development (OICED) at Commerce that is considered for funding by the Montana Legislature each biennium and was funded most recently as part of House Bill 2 in 2019. Together with the Native American Business Advisors grant and the Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant, these programs continue to articulate measurable success for investing in business and economic development activities on reservations in partnership with tribal governments, Native American economic development organizations and Native American-owned businesses to strengthen local and tribal economies. 

To learn more, visit MARKETMT.COM/ICP.

Outdoor Recreation

Montana Access Project Path Ahead Webinar Series:

January 12, 2021 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.)—Realizing Community-led Outdoor Recreation Priorities: Updates from the University of Montana Team—In this webinar, panelists will discuss CORR (Community Outdoor Recreation Realization), a community led/community initiated framework for envisioning, planning, and implementing outdoor recreation goals for community health and well-being and economic vitality. UM professors and students will present their research, report, and approach for rural communities. For more information or to register for this webinar, click here

Medicine Rocks State Park Certified as International Dark Sky Sanctuary

The International Dark-Sky Association has officially designated Medicine Rocks State Park as a certified International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Medicine Rocks State Park and Glacier National Park are the only certified dark sky sites in Montana. The application process for the IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary was a collaborative effort between Montana State Parks, the Carter County Museum, and Visit Southeast Montana.

The International Dark-Sky Association’s Dark Sky Sanctuary guidelines require that “the park must provide an exceptional dark sky resource where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 21.5 magnitudes per square arcsecond.” Over the course of two years, Sabre Moore, the director of the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, conducted sky quality measurements and concluded that Medicine Rocks State Park exceeded this benchmark. Read more from the Billings Gazette here

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

ButteFilm Companies Help Butte Economy—Butte's popularity continues to grow as filmmakers discover the town's potential when it comes to filming opportunities. "I had someone describe Butte as one big soundstage because it can be so many different things," said Karen Byrnes, community development director, who noted that Butte's vast landscape allows for it to portray a variety of different locations on camera.

Jocelyn Dodge, location manager, helped pick out many different locations for the current movie being filmed in town. "We’ve had two feature movies filmed here and one television series -- were hoping that there maybe one or two more coming to Butte," said Dodge.

Montana has become an incentive location for filmmakers after the 2019 MEDIA Act was passed, providing a State Tax Credit up to 35% of the base investment. However, while the film sets are saving money in the long run, local services are seeing immediate benefits after a short-lived tourism season. Read more from NBC Montana here

MissoulaCounty Officials Push Southern Montana Passenger Rail Effort—Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier has a dream to restore a long-gone type of mass transit to Montana's southern railroad route. "We lost passenger rail service right through here in 1979 and over the past 41 years the attempt to restore passenger rail service has largely been driven by passionate individuals or advocacy groups," Strohmaier said, standing at the old train depot at the north end of Higgins Avenue in Missoula. "But what Montana has lacked that other states actually have is a governance structure that is the driving force for the reestablishment of service."

Earlier this fall, 12 Montana counties founded the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, which Strohmaier hopes is the first step for regaining passenger rail service through the southern half of the state. The first board meeting will occur in January, and executives from Amtrak may attend future board meetings.

"Counties in Montana have done what has never been done before: establish the first regional passenger rail authority in the state," he said. "This will set the stage for reestablishing regular passenger rail service through the southern tier of the state, a transformational project for Montana that will add to and complement the Empire Builder along the Hi-Line." Other county officials across the state agree about the economic benefits. Read more from KPVI here

Other News

Commerce Announces 15 Montana Communities to Receive CDBG Planning Grants

The Montana Department of Commerce announced December 31 that 15 Montana communities will share $511,000 in federal grant funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. These grants will support planning activities for critical infrastructure and community development projects across Montana.

Planning lays the foundation to build vibrant, healthy and prosperous communities,” said Jennifer Olson, Community Development Administrator at Commerce. “These grants will support Montana counties, cities and towns as they plan for community infrastructure projects, develop and preserve affordable homes and create and retain jobs.”

CDBG Planning Grants will be awarded to:

  • Beaverhead County: $30,000 for a Growth Policy Update
  • City of Boulder: $37,500 for a Preliminary Engineering Report for the City’s water system
  • City-County of Butte-Silver Bow: $50,000 for an Uptown Central Business District Master Plan Update.
  • City of Choteau: $22,500 for a Growth Policy and Zoning Code Update
  • Town of Circle: $22,500 for the preparation of a Growth Policy
  • City of Columbus: $30,000 for a Parks and Sidewalk Master Plan
  • Fergus County: $30,000 for the preparation of a Growth Policy
  • City of Hamilton: $35,000 for a Growth Policy Update
  • City of Helena: $40,000 for an Affordable Housing Site Development Plan
  • Lewis & Clark County: $50,000 for a Preliminary Architectural Report for Aspen Village Apartments and Queen City Estates
  • City of Libby: $37,500 for a Growth Policy Update
  • Madison County: $25,000 for a Preliminary Architectural Report for the Tobacco Root Mountains Care Center
  • Missoula County: $30,000 for a Missoula County Trails Plan
  • Petroleum County: $35,000 for a Preliminary Architectural Report for the County Courthouse
  • Town of Philipsburg: $36,000 for the preparation of a Growth Policy

CDBG planning grants are available to eligible counties, cities, towns and local governments. Local governments may apply on behalf of special districts, unincorporated areas and non-profit organizations. Counties may also apply for planning grants on behalf of tribal utility authorities.

For more information about CDBG Planning Grants, visit COMDEV.MT.GOV.

There is No Content Marketing as Usual: 5 DMO Trends for 2021

Even if travel to your destination resumes in 2021, your content marketing habits from the 2010s won’t be enough. To match the right travelers with the right experiences, you’ll need a fresh approach to research, markets, values and messages.

Trends that simmered below the surface before COVID-19 have emerged with urgency in 2020. Over the last few years, for example, your destination marketing organization (DMO) might have started to make responsible travel messaging a priority to address visitor pressure due to mass tourism. Fast forward to today’s physical distancing rules, and suddenly this work is even more urgent.

As we look ahead to 2021, flexibility will be the foundation for content marketing. While there are hopeful forecasts for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, no one can predict all of the challenges that might arise.

The following trends have emerged from necessity. As we advance, they’ll become part of the formula that will help the travel industry restart and reimagine travel in a more positive way, removing some of the pressure points, inequities and negative impacts of the past.

These are five trends that we will use to guide our content marketing in 2021:

  • Using data and sentiment analysis to validate your messaging
  • Evolution of traditional social media channels
  • Staying true to your values and taking a stand
  • Amplifying real stories from your community and visitors
  • Niche marketing and reevaluating customer journeys

Read more from the Destination Think! blog here

Funding Resources

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

For more information, visit STATEPARKS.MT.GOV/RECREATION.  

Other Dates/Events to Note

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 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