Friday Flash 2/5/21

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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. 
    • March 24, 2021
    • May 26, 2021
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • February 8, 2021TAC Meeting via Zoom at 8:30 a.m. Click here for meeting materials and information to join via Zoom or phone. 
  • 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

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.

Montana Film News

'Cowboys' — Western Drama Filmed in Flathead Valley to Debut Online

For a brief second, actor Steve Zahn runs down Main Street in Kalispell past local landmarks like Norms News. Subsequent cuts show the actor shopping inside Western Outdoor, followed later by an overlook of the Flathead Valley from Desert Mountain, near Coram.

These are just a sampling of the Flathead County locales that bring a sense of place and authenticity to the indie drama, “Cowboys,” which was filmed throughout the Flathead Valley in the fall of 2019. The movie was released in select theaters across the country by Samuel Goldwyn Films Jan. 22, but will be made available to a wider audience Feb. 12 on a yet to be determined streaming platform.

The film is available for pre-order on Apple TV and will be available through video on demand and platforms like Amazon on Feb. 22. It's currently playing virtually at the Roxy Theater in Missoula. Read more from the Daily Interlake here

Outdoor Rec

Montana Access Project Path Ahead Webinar Series:

February 9, 2021 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.)—2020 Parks and Recreation at the Ballot Box—In this webinar, panelists will discuss discuss local and state funding measures for conservation and recreation fared this election season; successes in Montana. For more information or to register for this webinar, click here

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series

American Trails brings agencies, trailbuilders, advocates, and volunteers the latest in state-of-the-art information on all aspects of trails and greenways. Our webinars focus on a variety of trail topics, usually applicable to all trail types, with expert presenters. Webinar topics are chosen from current cutting-edge trail topics selected from attendee/presenter suggestions as well as recent popular conference sessions. For more information, visit or click on individual webinar links below. 

Upcoming webinars:

Montana State Parks Report Record Visitation for 2020

Montana State Parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a 29.5 percent increase over 2019. Visitation increased every month in 2020 over 2019, despite temporary closures at a several parks and the absence or sharp decline in school field trips, events and other group activities.

These record-setting visitation numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone who visited any of our parks in 2020,” said Beth Shumate, Parks Division Administrator at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in a news release. “The increased amount of people outdoors was evident, and our staff went above and beyond the call of duty to keep our parks safe and accessible. “Montana State Parks provided immediate physical and mental health relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This is definitely one of the most popular ways that folks get out onto their national forests each year, especially around this season,” said Chiara Cipriano, spokesperson for Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest. Though the increase in visitation in 2020 was unique, state park visitation has steadily increased 83% over the last 10 years.

Park visitation was up all around the state. The five most-visited state parks in 2020 were:

  1. Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 471,690 visits (up 32.9%)
  2. Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls - 384,309 visits (up .1%)
  3. Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts - 359,607 visits (up 104.5%)
  4. Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 231,388 visits (up 27.1%)
  5. Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 178,156 visits (up 32%)

To read the complete report, click here. Read more from KBZK here

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

Glacier National ParkGlacier National Park has a Stunning New "Sister Park" in Ireland—Glacier National Park in Montana has just gained a sister park in Ireland. Killarney National Park is known for its dramatic mountain vistas, stunning lakes, sprawling woodlands and abundance of wildlife. It will be paired with Glacier later this year so the two parks will share ideas and resources on how to overcome common threats.

The agreement between the US and Ireland will see both parks collaborate on ways to solve similar challenges such as controlling non-native invasive species that wreak havoc on native flora and fauna, improved ecological monitoring, and finding new ways to work with their local communities. The sites will also share ideas on how to maintain sustainable visitor numbers, with both parks seeing a huge surge in foot traffic in recent years.

The agreement which will make the two sites “sister parks” is expected to be signed into agreement in the coming weeks. The National Park Service (NPS) sister park agreement is usually valid for a three- or five-year term. Read more from Lonely Planet here.

WhitefishEntrepreneur Hikes Newest Company to Whitefish—At the age of 47, entrepreneur Victoria Livschitz was looking for some inspiration in her life. She was decades into a career in Silicon Valley working for and founding several tech companies but was feeling burnt out. One day, in 2017, she overheard several “much younger, much fitter” friends mention a plan to hike the John Muir Trail, an iconic 230-mile route through the High Sierras. “I just became fascinated,” Livschitz said. “It just captured me, and I asked if there was any chance I could join them. And I was not athletic in any way — I didn’t walk 10 miles in the previous 10 years.”

It happened that her friends had an extra spot on their permit, and they agreed that if Livschitz spent a few months training and could prove herself on a trial trip, she could join the trek.
My first backpacking trip was a 16-day John Muir trek. And that just blew my mind,” Livschitz said. “It literally changed the course of my life.” Livschitz, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” came away from her first backpacking trip with a head full of questions, namely why it had taken her nearly five decades to discover this new passion.

With a small group of friends, Livschitz launched RightOnTrek, a company that she describes as having the ultimate goal of being the Grand Central of planning outdoor adventures, big and small. Livschitz describes the company as a way of rethinking each step of planning an outdoor excursion. While there are a growing number of apps geared toward the outdoors, such as the popular hiking app AllTrails, Livschitz’s company is focused on more in-depth, comprehensive trip planning. She compares it to a travel agency tackling the logistics of an international trip. 

Included in RightOnTrek’s offerings are custom-made itineraries that cover all necessary recreation permits and break down treks by user ability, AI-created meal planning using individual data and gear rentals. Read more from the Flathead Beacon here

Yellowstone National Park2020 Yellowstone Visitation Drops Only 5% Despite Spring COVID-19 Closure—Despite the pandemic prompting the closure of Yellowstone National Park for more than a month last spring, more than 3.8 million people still visited, down only 5% from 2019.

The park was closed for health and safety reasons related to COVID-19 beginning March 24, 2020. Wyoming's two entrances were opened on May 18 and the three Montana entrances opened June 1. So for the entire month of April visitation was recorded as zero — an unprecedented statistic. In comparison, in 2019 more than 19,000 people visited in April.

Visitation for the months of September and October were the busiest on record. October saw more than 359,000 visitors and September recorded more than 837,000. The increase in tourism came despite numerous facility closures and restrictions in the park that limited the number of places to stay, eat and learn more about the region. Yellowstone also banned bus traffic, which has conveyed numerous foreign tourists to the park, especially from China.

Yellowstone handled increased cleaning duties and larger crowds with a smaller seasonal staff. Fewer people were hired by the park so those employed could be housed individually to avoid spread of the novel coronavirus. Read more from the Billings Gazette here

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 1 from Destination Analysts

Less anxious and pessimistic about the pandemic, Americans still feel quite some distance from “normal” —particularly when it comes to travel. Meanwhile, as the year marches on, the proportion of Americans planning to travel within the next three months has grown.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • After heightening last week, Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic and its impact lessened this week. More Americans are now feeling the coronavirus situation in the United States will stay relatively the same over the next month, at 35.0% up from 26.9% since last week.
  • Americans’ perceptions of the safety of travel and leisure activities continue to be the among the best they have been during the pandemic.
  • However, Americans still generally feel some distance from “normal.” Right now, the abilities to work/make money, be happy and enjoy relationships with family are where the greatest proportions of American travelers feel closer to normal. Unfortunately, just 21.4 percent feel more normalcy around being able to travel as they like.
  • Vaccines play a large role in a return to normal. When asked what needed to happen before they feel things have returned back to a normalcy they are comfortable with, there was the most agreement with having an effective vaccine widely distributed in the United States, followed by an effective vaccine widely distributed across the globe.
  • While excitement for travel in both the short (5.5/10) and longer term (5.9) decreased slightly this week and half still report they would feel guilty traveling right now, Americans’ overall state-of-mind around travel is at levels last seen in Fall 2020, before the most recent surge in cases. This week, 56.6% say they are in a readiness mindset when it comes to travel.
  • Americans remain in a period of being the most open to travel inspiration that they have been since the onset of the pandemic 11 months ago.
  • Although 56.1% still don’t want travelers in their own community right now, 40.5% said they would be happy to see an ad promoting their community as a place for tourism when it’s safe.
  • Just under half of American travelers say they will take at least one trip in the next three months (February-April). Many of these trips will remain regional, although cities as a trip destination have grown in popularity (40.9%), surpassing small towns and rural destinations (31.6%).
  • Two-thirds of American travelers did some kind of travel planning activity in the last week, from making travel reservations (11.2%) to researching travel ideas online (27.6%) to simply daydreaming about a vacation (33.2%).
  • Looking at where Americans dreamt of visiting in the last week, many had their minds on sun and fun, Europe, iconic cities, as well as classic outdoor destinations.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Other News

Can Do: How Montana Groups Are Educating COVID Tourists

The outdoor recreation economy is the second largest sector of Montana’s economy, generating $7.1B in annual consumer spending. 71,000 Montanans are employed in the sector, making its performance essential to the state’s full economic recovery.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on outdoor recreation and tourism? What response within the industry has been successful? What does 2021 look like for this essential part of the Montana economy? Learn more now on this episode of the Can Do podcast here featuring Racene Friede, President and CEO of Glacier Country Tourism and Scott Pankratz, Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association. 

Other Dates/Events to Note

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