Friday Flash 1/15/21

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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, the Montana Tourism Advisory Council 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, 2021TAC Meeting via Zoom (Agenda and meeting details coming soon)
  • 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 

Department of Commerce News

Governor Gianforte Nominates Director of Commerce Department

Governor Greg Gianforte announced Monday his nomination of Scott Osterman to lead the Montana Department of Commerce.

Getting our economy going again, getting Montana open for business, and getting Montanans back to work and thriving in good-paying jobs require a strong leader at the Department of Commerce. With his extensive experience in business development and management, Scott will be an outstanding leader for the department,” Governor Gianforte said.

A north central Montana native, Osterman most recently served as senior director of business unit operations at Applied Materials in Kalispell.

Osterman has served as a senior executive in Fortune 500 companies and venture start-ups, including in the semiconductor, automobile, and high-tech hardware and software industries.

His broad experience in business includes strategic planning, rapid growth initiatives, operations, sales, market development, and turnaround execution.

I’m honored to accept this opportunity to market, promote, and serve our great state and its people, and I look forward to responsibly and sustainably developing the tremendous potential of Montana. We are at a unique inflection point to grow the Montana economy in new ways, as well as to build on our traditional industries,” said Scott Osterman, nominee to lead the Montana Department of Commerce.

Stakeholders welcomed Gianforte’s appointment of Osterman:

  • Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce
    Scott Osterman is an outstanding choice to lead the Montana Department of Commerce. A true businessman from a leading-edge high-tech manufacturing company in Montana, Scott will bring focus and enthusiasm to the Montana Department of Commerce.”
  • Joe Unterreiner, former CEO of Kalispell Chamber of Commerce
    With his background as a senior executive at Applied Materials in Kalispell and several other high-tech firms, Scott Osterman brings a wealth of experience in start-ups, advanced manufacturing, and business development to his position as the director for the Montana Department of Commerce. Scott is innovative and has a keen understanding for how to advance Montana’s business environment.”

COVID-19 Update

Governor Gianforte Lifts Restrictions on Small Businesses with New Directive

Governor Greg Gianforte on Wednesday issued a new directive to replace several complicated directives related to the pandemic.

Improving our response to the pandemic has been my top priority,” Governor Gianforte said. “Today, I am issuing a new directive that removes or replaces the cumbersome layers of the existing ones. These new directives are clear. They are practical. They are commonsense. And they are easy to understand.”

Governor Gianforte’s 3-page directive replaces over 25 pages and layers of existing directives. Gianforte’s directive provides clear, easy-to-understand guidance.

The governor’s directive repeals onerous, arbitrary regulations on Montana small businesses, including restrictions on hours of operation and capacity.

Since March 2020, small business owners across Montana have worked to create a safe environment for their employees and customers while keeping their doors open. The new directive acknowledges the diversity of challenges businesses face in this pandemic, and affords them the flexibility to develop and implement appropriate policies based on industry best practices.

Governor Gianforte said, “We can reduce the burden on our small business owners while simultaneously protecting the health of Montana workers and customers. These are not mutually exclusive.”

Where industry best practices do not exist, the governor’s directive states that “such policies should be developed and implemented in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance.”

The directive also replaces the 25-person limit on public gatherings with simple guidance that “any public gatherings or events should be managed in a way that accommodates CDC social distancing guidelines.”

Montana business leaders welcomed Governor Gianforte’s new guidance:

  • Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce: “We know that the bar, restaurant, and hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard during this pandemic. By lifting the restrictions placed on indoor seating, removing limits on hours of operation, and eliminating capacity limits, these businesses will begin to operate normally again. Montanans will be back to work, and our economy will be one step further into recovery.”
  • Mary Jane Heisler, president of the Montana Tavern Association: “This is a big deal for taverns, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses. I appreciate Governor Gianforte’s decision to take a more thoughtful approach.”
  • Steve Wahrlich, board member of Montana Lodging and Hospitality: “The hospitality sector of Montana’s economy is greatly appreciative of Governor Gianforte’s actions today. His concise plan will help businesses move forward, while also working to protect our customers and workers. We think this is a step to starting off the new year in the right direction.”
  • Ronda Wiggers, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB): “We are very appreciative that Governor Gianforte understands that every small business is different. Allowing each business to follow best practice safety protocol that works for them, their employees, and their customers will allow Montana’s economy to begin to recover.”

In a press conference last Tuesday, Governor Gianforte provided a clear path to rescinding the statewide mask mandate. First, the most vulnerable Montanans are being vaccinated. Second, the legislature sends to his desk a measure to protect businesses and schools from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines.

The full text of Governor Gianforte’s Executive Order 2-2021 and Directive implementing EO 2-2021 may be found HERE and HERE.

Additionally, read Thursday's Directive here

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

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.

Made in Montana

2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow 

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts rescheduled for September 17-18, 2021 (TENTATIVE) in Helena MT at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds.

The public health situation in Montana and Lewis and Clark County continues to evolve and a large event in March 2021 is not a feasible option. To keep our Made in Montana members and Montana community safe, we rescheduled the annual show with a tentative plan for a wholesale and public day trade show that aligns with public health guidelines.

Exhibitor registration will open in early May 2021 and wholesale buyer registration will open in early July 2021. We encourage Made in Montana members to verify their membership status and information in the online directory at is accurate and up to date.

Please 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   


Visit MT Social Media

Social Media

Using footage from previous winter seasons, the Visit Montana social team is rolling out new stories and reels on Instagram and Facebook featuring skiing and other winter activities throughout the state.

These stories include quizzes, “Tap for a Closer Look”, 3D environmental text and much more. Along with this new content, the Winter Anthem is now live for all followers of our Facebook, IGTV and Twitter. The channels continue to offer new ways for followers to engage and get inspired. Follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Outdoor Recreation


Avalanche Safety Training in Cooke City

Providing Training to Save Lives

The Montana State Parks Snowmobile program provides grant funding to support snowmobile trail grooming and education, on over 4,000 miles of trails across Montana, so enthusiasts can ride safely. The State Parks Snowmobile Program is funded by Montana Fuel Tax revenues, snowmobile registrations, and resident and nonresident decals. 

This program has provided funding for free weekly Avalanche awareness and safety classes in Cooke City for the last five years. The goal of the program is to increase avalanche awareness for riders coming to the Cooke City area and to reduce avalanche fatalities. During the last five years, there have been zero recorded snowmobile avalanche fatalities in Cooke City. Learn about the impact these funds are having to save lives in Cooke City here

For more information including laws, trails, education, permits and safety for snowmobiling in Montana, click here

The Outside in Us All

As one of the most challenging years in Montana history comes to a close, we want to call Montanans’ attention to the important role our state parks and fishing access sites have played during the COVID crisis.

As social distancing became necessary and isolation common, Montana’s parks and access sites offered a way for families to “be alone together” in the great outdoors. In the first half of the year alone, 4 out of 5 state parks experienced increases in visitation, with huge spikes in February, March and April. In eastern Montana, Makoshika saw a nearly 60% increase in January-June visitations. In western Montana, Thompson Chain of Lakes welcomed 40% more visitors. And in the heart of Montana, Ackley Lake experienced a stunning 156% increase in visitation.

In spite of the pandemic, our state parks and fishing access sites continued to support Montana’s significant tourism industry. Our water-based parks were a huge draw for Montanans and out-of-state visitors as well. As an example, preliminary statistics for floaters on the Smith River from April 1 – October 8 show that 4,269 Montana residents and 1,340 non-residents floated on their own, a new record for private floaters on the Smith. Outfitted floaters guided another 402 residents and 300 non-residents. New protocols for camping and launching, enacted as COVID measures, had the corollary benefit of increasing the flow of tourism dollars in nearby communities. Read more from the Sidney Herald here

Best Marketing Practices

Visit Billings

Visit Billings

The Billings CVB (Visit Billings) invested in the software platform service provider CVENT in late 2019 with successful results. Cvent, Inc. specializes in meetings, events, and hospitality management technology. The company offers web-based software for meeting site selection, online event registration, event management, email marketing, and web surveys.

The software subscription allows staff to work directly with meeting planners who are looking to book meetings or conventions at the destination. The placements also offer digital placements and search options that elevate Billings as a meetings destination. For instance, if a meeting planner is looking to meet in Billings or the west, Visit Billings will be featured. An example of the City Profile can be found on the CVENT blog post Visit Billings for Your Next Meeting or Event. The investment of a couple of thousand dollars produced more than $1.6 billion in “total business opportunity sourced to the CVB” according to Visit Billings executive director Alex Tyson. These results from the campaign that ran 6/1/2019 – 1/31/2020 are pleasing and Visit Billings is looking forward to using the CVENT tool in getting meeting planners to think about Billings in a post pandemic meeting recruitment environment.

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

Norma N

ITRR's Dr. Norma Nickerson RetiresMessage from ITRR— Happy New Year to all our partners throughout Montana – We hope this message finds you all well and safe in this new year. Changes are afoot in 2021 for the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) [] here at the University of Montana. After 25 years at the helm of ITRR, Dr. Norma Nickerson is retiring. All our staff and students here at ITRR are sad to see her go, but excited both for the adventures that await her (they aren’t actually waiting, as she has hit the ground skiing in Yellowstone), as well as the future of ITRR.

Dr. Jeremy Sage will be assuming the role as Interim Director of ITRR for the foreseeable future. Jeremy has served as Associate Director and Economist at ITRR since 2016 and is also currently an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Montana.

A note from Jeremy: “I’ve had the luxury of learning a lot from Norma over the last five years, and want to thank her for the mentorship she has provided me, the rest of the ITRR staff, and the many students who have come and gone. I look forward to continuing to build on the relationships and service provided by ITRR over the years and am excited at the opportunity to further evolve the research and data offerings from ITRR. Our goal continues to be one of providing independent and reliable research that helps to enable all of you to do your fine work in keeping Montana a great place to live and a desired destination for travelers. While I know many of you, there are even more I have not yet had had the opportunity to meet and welcome you all to please get in touch.” For the full retirement announcement, click here

Glacier Country TourismSmart Meetings Awards Western Montana's Glacier Country the Platinum Choice Award—From Smart Meetings Magazine: "It is my extreme privilege and honor to announce that Western Montana’s Glacier Country has been selected as a 2020 Smart Meetings Platinum Choice Awards winner! During what was one of the most challenging years ever for the hospitality industry, you rose to the occasion and supported your partners. You are a shining example of leadership and can be proud of the contribution you have made. We are celebrating you and holding you up as an example.

The Platinum Choice Awards honor the hospitality industry’s top-ranked hotels, venues and CVBs that display the highest standards of overall excellence in service and amenities. Industry pros and Smart Meetings’ readers cast their votes and each nomination receives a thoughtful review from the Smart Meetings editorial team who selects the final honorees." Congratulations to Glacier Country! 

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 11 from Destination Analysts

Anxieties may be raised, but as Americans look out over the next month, they see an improving situation. For the travel industry, this means a delightful shift in sentiment towards travel, with openness to travel inspiration never higher in the last 10 months.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Across the country, anxiety was up this week, particularly about personally contracting COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the national economy. But as Americans look out over the next month they see an improving situation.
  • Undoubtedly, the availability and ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are a contributor to these feelings of encouragement. The proportion of American travelers who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months (61.9%), the proportion who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about being able to safely travel in the next six months (56.4%), and the number of travelers saying they have begun planning and booking trips specifically in anticipation of vaccines being available (33.7%) have all risen.
  • Amongst the most critical indicators of Americans’ path to a travel norm is the plummet in perceptions of travel activities as unsafe. This week, an average of 50.1% perceive the travel and leisure activities we track as unsafe, which is the lowest it has been since March 15th. More Americans are confident they can travel safely now, rising to 31.8% from 24.7% last week.
  • Americans’ openness to travel inspiration reached a pandemic-period peak, measuring 6.0 on a scale of 0-10. Those in a travel readiness state-of-mind soared nearly 12 percentage points to 58.6%, also the highest it has been in the pandemic. Excitement levels about travel in 2021 grew to 6.1 from 5.8 last week.
  • As Americans plan their travel for 2021, July is still the peak month, with 27% saying they have at least tentative plans to travel then. Right now, 31.4% of American travelers anticipate their next air trip to be in the first half of the year.
  • When it comes to travel in the next three months, more Americans are seeing this as a reality. This week, 48.9% say they will take at least one leisure trip in the next 12 weeks, up from 37.5%. Of those Americans who will travel, they anticipate 1.7 overnight trips on average, largely within 250-miles of where they live.
  • 43.0% of all American travelers say discounts and price cuts can motivate them to take a trip they had not previously considered—a 43-week high.
  • With the important increase in Americans’ desire for travel inspiration, content found through search engines, email and travel/lifestyle magazines are good bets for travel marketers across generations, while streaming video services and social media are also key for inspiring younger travelers.
  • While 53.5% still do not want visitors to their communities right now, a high of 40.3% said they would be happy if they saw an advertisement promoting their community as a place for tourists to come visit when it is safe.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report 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:

For more information, click here.  

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