Friday Flash 1/29/21

Friday Flash Banner
MRC-Sean R Heavey

Photo credit: Sean R Heavey

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. 
    • March 24, 2021
    • May 26, 2021
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • 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 

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. We anticipate making an announcement of 2021 awarded projects 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

MIM Members in the News

Big Sky Meets Small Batch: Montana’s Resurgent Distilling Scene—Montana is known for its spectacular, wide-open spaces; but, by comparison, its breadth of distilleries doesn’t quite match the state’s sprawl. At least, not yet.

The thing that makes a distillery most unique in Montana is its size,” says Keith Robins, owner/chief barman at The Standard, a cocktail and dessert bar in the ski resort town of Big Sky. By that, he means that Montana has retained some of the strictest laws in the country for its distilleries. As a result, many remain modest in size.

The state had a relatively late start in the craft distillery boom. A shift in state legislation in 2005 changed Prohibition-era liquor laws to finally permit micro-distilleries to produce small batches of alcohol for limited distribution. As of the end of 2019, Montana was home to just 25 craft distilleries, according to the American Craft Distillery Association (2020 figures are not yet available). Read more from Wine Enthusiast Magazine here

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   

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.

Tribal News

Indigenous Entrepreneurs Experiment with Airbnb Online Experiences

Next time you’re browsing, pre-booking that $250 Park Avenue brownstone or $400 Maui oceanfront villa for a post-pandemic escape, you may want to consider a different kind of getaway. For $8, you can take an unmasked trip through the mind and designs of an Indigenous fashion icon in the making, live from Montana’s Rocky Boy Reservation.

Last month, fourth-generation Chippewa, Cree and Blackfeet beader and sewer Rebekah Jarvey debuted her Airbnb Online Experience: Indigenous Fashion With Expert Artisan. Along the way, she detailed the sartorial differences between her Chippewa and Cree ancestors that shed light on her strong and distinctive style.

The Chippewa women were flashier, mainly because they came in contact with the Europeans first and did trades first, so they got the good materials first,” she explained during the Experience. “They were definitely fashionistas first. They used a lot of velvet and beads in their dresses and their skirts and they did hand embroidery.”

In the course of an hour, the designer exuberantly delivered a lesson in fashion, family, and Indigenous geography, constructed as expertly as her trademark ribbon skirts. Jarvey complemented the experience with visuals including maps of Montana showing the location of the Rocky Boy Reservation, images of her grandmothers’ beadwork, clips from her recent Honor Our Legacy online fashion show and an appearance from her son Royce, who got to show off his own beadwork.

This opportunity to witness two generations of Indigenous talents practicing and taking pride in their craft is part of Airbnb’s strategy to remain viable during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has curtailed its normal rental activity. Read more from Tribal Business News here

Outdoor Rec

onX Acquires Adventure Projects, Inc.

Unparalleled navigation tools now support a vast community of outdoor adventurers
onX, a pioneer in outdoor digital navigation, today announced its acquisition of Adventure Projects, Inc., a network of websites and mobile apps featuring thousands of outdoor experiences that contributors have brought to life with guide-book details, imagery, trail conditions, and other content.

onX creates GPS mapping technology that helps inform, inspire, and empower millions of outdoor recreationists. Through its digital products and advocacy projects that expand public access opportunities, onX has promoted the enjoyment of our outdoor landscapes for more than a decade.

"Our mission is to awaken the adventurer in everyone," said onX VP of Product Management, Chris Hamilton. "We look forward to supporting Adventure Projects' unrivaled and passionate community. Their outdoor guides have inspired millions of climbers, hikers, skiers, trail runners, and bikers alike. Our goal is to help everyone have the best outdoor experience possible by arming them with technology to discover and explore new places, safely and confidently." Read more from Cision PR Newswire here

Best Marketing Practices

Visit Big Sky

Visit Big Sky

User generated content (UGC) may be more valuable than ever in a post-pandemic recovery for tourism partners who most likely have had media outreach and photography significantly halted by COVID-19.

But, even prior to the outbreak, Visit Big Sky (VBS) had incorporated this method as part of its formal marketing strategy by contracting with the company CrowdRiff, a content management system, to source content, store it, and serve it up easily.

Assets generated through the CrowdRiff platform can be used to populate self-optimizing website galleries, email newsletters, ad creative, social media channels, and even live photo displays. It also makes it easy for third party content providers to upload assets into the system for VBS's use. According to an article published last year in the trade journal Marketing Land, people are on social media now more than ever and with that sharing more than ever. "By harnessing and showcasing these stories, brands are able to connect with customers in a more authentic and personalized way — lifting engagement, strengthening consumer trust and ultimately driving sales."

By utilizing and showcasing user-generated content, we are allowing our most passionate visitors to become our personal brand advocates, sharing their insights on our community, outdoor recreation products, services and more. In FY20, Visit Big Sky secured more than 2,000 user generated assets. CrowdRiff's digital rights management system assured that VBS had secure rights to the content shared on social media. Of the custom galleries on specific website pages, the top three galleries were: mountain biking, Lone Peak Mountain and zip lining. Here is an example of a photo posted by @maninbigsky.

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

Big SandyMontana's "Golden Triangle" is Getting National Recognition—To some, the town of Big Sandy may not seem like much more than a couple of grain elevators along an empty stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere - but that middle of nowhere is actually what is known as Montana's Golden Triangle and now, thanks to a description from a Big Sandy native, the New York Times is taking notice.

The article is titled "52 Places To Love In 2021," and one of the places is Montana's Golden Triangle region; Doreen Stephens is quoted in the article, explaining that she grew up on a farm 14 miles west of Big Sandy.

"It's a big honor to be having some recognition,” said The Grocery Store employee Jordan Schwarzbach. Read more from KPAX here

ButteButte to Develop Master Plan for Uptown's Economic Future—Butte’s historic Uptown area is so unique economic leaders are developing a plan to help it thrive into the future.

There’s nothing else like Uptown, Butte, I mean, you walk out the door of our building, it is the coolest, most unique urban area of anywhere in Montana,” said Butte Local Development Corporation Director Joe Willauer. Next month, the city will host two public Zoom meetings to get feedback from the public and business owners in the historic district that intersects at Park and Main streets. The city wants to know what it can do to enhance this important area. Read more from KPAX here

Ravalli CountyTourism: An Economic Engine for Ravalli County—Here in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, we’ve counted ourselves lucky during the last months of the coronavirus pandemic. We have eight small towns, plenty of open spaces, and invested partners and residents who have strived to make our valley a safe and welcoming place to live and play. We’ve also been lucky to have the Yellowstone TV series filming in our valley and the economic boost it brings to businesses, both small and large.

Throughout the summer and fall, the Ravalli County TBID worked to ensure that visitors knew Montana was open, while encouraging them to follow local, county and state health guidelines, as we made efforts to strike a balance between keeping our communities safe, ensuring local businesses were able to stay open, and that the livelihood of our destination was able to stay intact. Read more from the Ravalli Republic here

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 25 from Destination Analysts

Anxiety about the pandemic is as high as ever right now, but driven by optimism about vaccine timelines, Americans keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow larger and closer. This more hopeful outlook has lifted excitement about travel, with planned trips beginning to ramp up in May and urban destinations continuing to show signs of recovery.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic is up. The percentage of Americans highly concerned about personally contracting the virus, their friends or family contracting the virus, the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances and its impact on the national economy overall all increased this week—and, in fact, are among the highest levels they have ever been.
  • But Americans also keep growing more optimistic about the future. This week, 35.0% said they feel the pandemic situation is going to get better in the next month. The only other times this measure of optimism reached this level were the weeks of May 4th and June 8th.
  • This more hopeful outlook for the near future has lifted excitement about travel. Americans’ excitement levels for potential getaways and their 2021 travel vision, as well as their openness to travel inspiration, all grew and are in a pandemic-era high period.
  • In a measurement of “pent up demand,” two-thirds of those whose typical travel patterns were altered by the pandemic say they miss traveling “very much,” and now 22.2% of them say they are going to travel more in 2021 to make up for lost time—up from 18.6% last week. Meanwhile, 50.9% confirm they will return to their pre-pandemic levels of traveling.
  • In the last week alone, 38.7% day-dreamt about leisure travel, 30.3% talked about travel with friends or relatives and 27.0% researched travel ideas online.
  • Americans continue to rate travel and leisure activities as safer than they ever have since the start of the pandemic.
  • The availability and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine remains a primary contributor to the growing optimism Americans are feeling about travel. Two-thirds say the vaccines are making them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and nearly 60% say they are making them more optimistic that they can travel safely within that same period. More American travelers than ever are saying they will get vaccinated against COVID-19 (66.3%).
  • The pace of vaccine distribution will impact the timing of travel volume and trip types. For example, when parents of school-aged children were posed a scenario in which their own and other children had not been vaccinated by this summer, 43.2% of them said that they will NOT travel with the kids in this situation. This is up nearly 18 percentage points from when we last asked this question the week of December 7th.
  • You can see vaccine expectations and how Americans envision the year in their current travel plans. The percent of Americans with leisure trips planned begins to jump up in May. Right now, 26.1% of American travelers say they already have plans to travel in July.
  • In gauging Americans’ march “back to normal,” we continue to see signs of urban destinations recovering. New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles comprise 3 of the top 5 places Americans say they want to visit this year.
  • However, it appears that rural areas will continue to be strong competitors to cities in a way not seen before the pandemic. Those traveling over the next three months are as likely (even slightly more so) to go to small towns and rural areas as cities and metropolitan areas, and while 32.6% of American travelers say their travel preferences favor visiting cities, 29.7% say their preference is for rural.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Other News

Can Do: Two Perspectives on Montana's Economy Going Into 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage our country and vaccine relief is slow in coming, sound advice is as good as gold. Montana businesses experienced an exhausting 2020, and the new year promises to be just as unpredictable. This episode of the Can Do podcast has two guests experiencing the economic impact from two very different perspectives:

  • Tino Sonora is the Associate Director of the Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Dr. Sonora has been studying the economic effects of the pandemic on Montana since its onset nearly a year ago.
  • Lynn-Wood Fields is a film industry veteran who is currently the Marketing Producer for Montana Studios. Among other things, Montana Studios has been providing production support for the hit TV series Yellowstone, which is being filmed in Montana.

What is the state of the state as we enter 2021? Which industries have weathered the pandemic the best and have a bright future? What lessons can be shared with businesses that continue to struggle, and is there a silver lining? Read more or listen to the podcast from MTPR here

Other Dates/Events to Note

January 30, 2021—TEDxBigSky—TEDx is returning to Big Sky for its fifth year and this year the theme is "Awakening". The focus will be on presence or consciousness without thought and will feature stories about people helping each other, businesses changing their focus to help the greater good and perspective shifts in the face of need. What began in 1984 as a conference to share new ideas concerning technology, entertainment and design has become one of the most renowned speaking series in the world. TED Talks now cover a wide range of topics and occur around the globe in more than 100 different languages. For more information on speakers, their topics, and updates, please visit the event website.

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

May 12, 2021Free International Roundup Supplier SeminarHosted by the Great American West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota & South Dakota) & Rocky Mountain International, join us for this 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