Friday Flash 2/19/21

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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
  • 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. 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 is rescheduled for September 10-11, 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


Montana Film Office to Launch New Website

The Montana Film Office is very excited to announce our newly designed website — to officially launch on March 1, 2021. We wanted to make the new website easier to navigate, more user-friendly, and more appealing to producers and filmmakers worldwide looking to make Montana their Ultimate Location.

We aspire to provide our clients and partners with the most accurate, up-to-date information while maintaining focus on our mission to enhance Montana’s economy by: expanding film production in the state, advertising Montana as open for business, increasing job opportunities, promoting the growth of small businesses, and promoting tourism.

Producers have come to depend on the Montana Film Office to help navigate permitting, regulation processes, and location nuances. And we are thrilled to showcase our new website to aid in that endeavor.

Our web address has not changed – you’ll still find us at MONTANAFILM.COM. We invite you to visit our new look on March 1, 2021.

Ultimate Location

Heritage/Cultural News

Dino Trail

Montana Dinosaur Trail News

Like most of the Montana Tourism Industry, the Montana Dinosaur Trail Partnership is relieved to have 2020 behind it.

Fortunately, all 14 Trail Facilities were able to open in 2020, but with shortened seasons and limited capacity. Despite this situation the Trail Facilities hosted 262,704 visitors, over 40% from outside Montana. While 2020 visitor numbers were down 27% from the 2019 record of just under 360,000, Makoshika State Park enjoyed its best year to date with 128,000 visitors, a 50% increase!

In addition to visitation, the Trail sold 322 Prehistoric Passports to visitors and 29 groups completed their Passports by visiting all 14 facilities last year. The Trail Finishers came from 6 states – Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin - and Montana. The 2020 Passport sales went to people in 28 states along with Montana and Hong Kong China.

There are encouraging signs for 2021 in the steady sales of Passports – 80 so far - and inquiries about the Trail. Currently, all 14 Facilities are open or planning to be open in 2021. For information about Trail Facilities and Montana’s unique Paleo Story, visit MTDINOTRAIL.ORG or follow them on Facebook

Outdoor Rec

Giant Springs Turns into Frosty Winter Wonderland

Incredible video is circulating social media that shows Giant Springs State Park looking like a frosty winter wonderland. If you look closely, the water is still flowing despite arctic air. That’s because Giant Springs water stays at a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

Montana’s most visited state park is coated with icy and snow, and North America’s largest natural water springs never turn solid. One-hundred-fifty-six-million gallons flow each day. It takes almost 30 years for that water to trickle down from the Little Belt Mountains. Marisela Hazzard, Content Director of Great Falls Montana Tourism took a stroll through the freezing fog last week and says capturing the moment on video was magical.

"Walking through it and it was a little bit windy, not too much there are still some trees along the River's Edge Trail that block it. But the snowflakes or ice crystals were coming off the trees and it just looked beautiful,” Hazzard said.

Giant Springs is still open, but visitors must bundle up and be very careful along the icy paths. Wind chill is stronger along the water. You’ll also notice another beautiful product of Mother Nature if you visit over the next few weeks. Read more from KULR8 here

Heading Out to Montana’s Backcountry? What You Need to Know

If you’re looking to “Get Lost” out in Montana’s beautiful backcountry this weekend, officials are asking you to take precautions so they don’t have to help you “Get Found.”

The Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue (GCSAR) and Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) always encourage backcountry outings but want to warn people of the fresh snow and frigid cold temperatures.

In January, GCSAR volunteers dropped everything to respond to a call 113 times for 15 calls, three searches, 12 rescues, and two mutual aid events.

“Snowmobiling has completely dominated the calls lately especially in West Yellowstone they’ve seen a huge, huge amount of snowmobile accidents,” Search and Rescue Captain Scott Secor said. “It’s not just from vacationers out-of-town, it’s also people right here in Bozeman and Gallatin County.”

Both GCSAR and GNFAC said they are seeing more and more people taking to the backcountry just like in the summer during the COVID-19 pandemic with trips to Montana State Parks and national parks in Montana during certain summer months. Read more from KULR8 here. For information on snowmobiling in Montana, click here

Best Marketing Practices

Miles City

Miles City

What does Pampalona, Spain and Miles City, Montana have in common? Bulls in the streets! However, the bulls and the people fare much better on the Montana street. The 29th annual Cowtown Beef Breeders Show was recently held in downtown Miles City.

According to John Laney, Miles City CVB executive director, everything went smooth and safe considering the world is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and most events and attractions are not yet seeing typical attendance and engagement. Thirty-four producers attended this year with the farthest coming from eastern South Dakota, some 400 miles away. Eleven pens were set up on one side of Main Street. Each pen held 6-10 yearling bulls. The event is a mix of producers showing their yearling bulls, buyers purchasing herd stock, outdoor trade show vendors and hundreds of locals and visitors walking Main Street, eating at local restaurants and spending a night or two in town. Laney commented the majority of this year’s producers were younger, perhaps the next generation taking over. Besides the increase of activity at the sale barn, retailers and restaurants felt the economic impact of the event with many reporting a big uptick in traffic and sales contributed to the downtown crowd gathered during the show and sale.

A printed city guide was distributed that served as both a directory for the producers and a visitor’s guide. Producers gave out “Bull Bucks” to interested producers who visited their pens. This networking tools builds contacts for producers and buyers and three lucky winners were drawn with each receiving a $300 credit toward the purchase of a bull from the sale. Community organizations come together to put on the event which receives tremendous support and promotion by the local radio station and media who understand the event brings returning and new people to town at a time of the year that injects the community with a good time and good influx of revenue and that’s no bull!

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

Big SkyBig Sky Is Montana’s Ultimate All-Season Mountain Escape—What is it about mountains that capture our imagination? For me, it goes beyond aesthetic appeal. They exist as punctuation; emphatic reminders of the awesome forces that shape our earth over eons. A single snapshot millions of years in the making. They wink at me, knowingly, from the horizon's edge.

How they call to you is a surprisingly personal affair. But when you’re in Western Montana, it’s a conversation you won’t be able to ignore. And if you’re in Big Sky, you won’t want it to end.

So far as aptly-named towns go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a rival (Boring, Oregon maybe?). The landscape of Big Sky remains relentlessly on-brand. Turn west off of US-191 and a wide alpine basin unfurls before you. The “Meadow” is a verdant valley bookended by sloping ridges on opposing sides. Your sights, however, will be drawn directly ahead to the triangulated mass of Lone Peak dominating the encroaching panorama. This is one of those dictionary-illustration-type deals of what you’d find when seeking a definition for “mountain.” Read more from Thrillist here

MontanaNew Report Ranks Montana as #1 State to Open a Small Business—Many factors contribute to how successful a small business is, but according to a recent study, Montana is the best state to open a small business.

The study done by The Blueprint found that Montana was ranked the number one best state to open a small business in 2021. The factors used to determine the ranking included tax climate, consumer spending within the state, and the rate of new entrepreneurs. They also considered the business survival rate over five years, labor costs, and climate. Here are the top five:

  • Montana
  • South Dakota
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Idaho

The report says of Montana: Montana scores high in several areas, including the number of new businesses calling Montana home. A five-year business survival rate of 53.4% puts the odds of success in your favor. With a median annual income of $57,153, labor costs should be reasonable, and geographically, Montana holds little risk of natural disasters, with forest fires the major culprit in 2020. Montana’s corporate tax climate is not as optimal as it could be, with a corporate tax rate of 6.75%, while the individual income tax rate tops out at 6.9%. Montana does not currently have a state sales tax. Read more at KXLH here

MontanaMaking Ends Meet with Meat in Montana—The answer to how to make ends meet during the pandemic might just be...Meat. "This is an extremely vital industry with a lot of job security,” said Miles Community College meat processing coordinator Tina Rutledge.

The meat processing industry has been in need of skilled labor for a while. “I’ll tell you. It’s always been, it’s been for quite some time, and it’s been in this whole industry as a whole," said owner of Tizer Meats in Helena Matt Elvbakken. "Not just in Montana. That there is a shortage of qualified meat cutters." And COVID-19 hasn’t done anyone any favors.

The Miles Community College meat processing program in Miles City hopes to play a part in meeting that demand. Their one year program combines online work with paid internships that result in an education that can help the graduates find work anywhere in the country. And this program, which just kicked off this past January came at the right time during COVID. Read more at KTVH here

PolebridgeWelcome to Polebridge: One of the US' Last Frontiers—For more than a century, settlers have been drawn to this pioneering town because of the sheer beauty of the surrounding wilderness – but residents worry that may soon change.

In the middle of north-western Montana’s remote wilderness, along an unpaved stretch of highway known as “The North Fork Road”, an electric car pulls up next to a mud-splattered truck in front of a red building. Tall white letters on the 106-year-old storefront spell out “Polebridge Mercantile”. Behind it, the towering teeth of Glacier National Park’s snow-capped mountains disappear into a cloud-draped sky, and a blue-green river carves through an unbroken expanse of forest so vast that it feels prehistoric.

Polebridge is one of the most remote towns in the US’ lower 48 states. To get here, you have to drive 35 miles “up the North Fork” – referring to both the bumpy road and the broad North Fork Flathead River it parallels – from Columbia Falls, Montana, towards the north-western entrance of Glacier National Park. In good weather, it’s an hour’s drive to reach the nearest petrol station, mobile phone service or doctor's office. And during the six months each year that the road is covered in snow or ice, that drive might take half a day. Twenty miles north of Polebridge, the road dead ends at the Canadian border, disappearing into an impenetrable wall of fir, pine and larch trees. Read more from BBC here

COVID-19 Research

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

For the first time, optimism about the course the pandemic will take in the United States over the next month significantly outweighs pessimism. Nevertheless, Americans are frequently experiencing burn out and cabin fever and thus may need travel more than ever.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • In total, 12.7% said they took a trip for the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend—double what was reported for Memorial Day weekend in the early pandemic period, and a similar rate to Labor Day weekend, which followed the summer coronavirus case surge.
  • Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic—from both the financial and health impact perspectives—continues to decline. Now a record 39.3% of Americans feel the situation will get better in the next month.
  • These better feelings translate to travel. Perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has fallen to an average of 46.2% —a record low since the start of the pandemic. About 60% of American travelers feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely in the current environment, and those who would have travel guilt has declined to 44.0% from a recent peak of 54.6% the week of December 14th. Now 58.5% are in a travel readiness state of mind.
  • Vaccines continue to keep optimism up among a majority of American travelers. Nearly 6-in-10 travelers say COVID-19 vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and 52.9% say it makes them more optimistic about the ability to travel safely in that same time.
  • This week, 54.0% of American travelers report that they have a friend or relative who has received the vaccine. Seeing people we know get vaccinated against COVID-19 clearly benefits travel sentiment. Those who know others who have already been vaccinated are even more optimistic about their travel future and have begun planning travel specifically in anticipation of a wider vaccine rollout at higher rates than others. They are also more likely to have done any travel dreaming and planning in the last week, and have more trips planned for 2021.
  • Right now, 80.2% of Americans have plans for one or more upcoming trips, with July still looking like the peak travel month this year. While nearly a quarter of the next road trips Americans will take will be within the next 3 months, the majority of American travelers still anticipate their very next air trip to be after June.
  • More than half of Americans have taken some action towards their very next leisure trip, including researching destinations to visit (26.1%), booking lodging (18.8%) and researching travel activities (14.4%).
  • Advertising certainly plays a role in inspiring more travel. This week, 55.8% report being highly open to travel inspiration. Well over a quarter of all American travelers—and over 35% of those Millennial age or younger—say that an advertisement has specifically motivated them to travel to a destination. In fact, 38.9% say the last travel destination ad they saw made them feel “happy” or “very happy.”
  • Where American travelers feel most receptive to travel advertising varies by age, but websites, social media (particularly Facebook), both broadcast and streaming television, and email are common.
  • In addition to how they are feeling about traveling, how Americans perceive travel within their own communities is also critical to understanding the travel industry’s recovery. This week 44.3% agree they feel comfortable going out for leisure activities where they live. In addition, a larger proportion of Americans continue to say they would be happy to see their community advertised for tourism (39.1% vs 29.1% who would be unhappy). Those residing in urban areas are far likelier to feel happy about travel advertisements of their city compared to those residing in suburban or rural areas.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Montana Aware

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

Other News

Allegiant Announces New Seasonal Flights to Tourist Destinations in Montana, Washington, Iowa

In a major expansion of its routes, Allegiant will be offering easier access to national landmarks like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. San Diegans will soon be getting more options for direct travel to vacation destinations like Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, thanks to new nonstop flights announced this week by Allegiant.

The new seasonal flights, debuting in May, June and July, will add five cities to San Diego International Airport’s nonstop network and will bring to 12 the number of nonstop flights offered by Allegiant during the summer season. Each of the nonstop routes will operate through mid-August.

The new destinations with twice-weekly flights are:

  • Kalispell, Mont., via Glacier Park International Airport, beginning May 28.
  • Pasco, Wash., via Tri-Cities Airport, beginning May 28.
  • Bozeman, Mont., via Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, beginning June 3.
  • Des Moines, Iowa, via Des Moines International airport, beginning July 1.

Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here

Other Dates/Events to Note

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:

February 25, 2021 (12:00-1:00 p.m. MST)Game-Changing Data to Drive Your Destination's RecoveryJoin Destination Think and Tripadvisor in this webinar to learn how you can manage your destination with real-time sentiment data. More than 170 DMOs worldwide use the Tourism Sentiment Index (TSI), first created by Destination Think in 2018, to monitor online sentiment and gain insights vital to tourism recovery. Key takeaways will include:

  • How to find out, in real-time, the way travellers and residents feel about your destination.
  • How resident and traveller sentiment data can aid your destination’s recovery.
  • How conversations on sites like Tripadvisor, Google and Facebook are positioning your destination.
  • What product development opportunities are surfacing within online traveller discussions.
  • How Tourism Winnipeg uses TSI Live to manage tourism recovery through COVID-19.

For more information or to register, click here

February 25, 2021 (1:00 p.m. MST)—The Value of DMOs: Best Practices for Official DMO Websites & Visitor Guides During the COVID-19 CrisisJoin Destination Analysts and Miles Partnership for a webinar presentation based on insights from two of the largest ever studies into the reach, impact and influence of DMO websites and visitor guides. This webinar will summarize invaluable takeaways—from how these marketing assets are essential to your communications to the content types, features and functionality that will help drive the recovery in your destination. 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