Friday Flash 3/12/21

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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 
  • May 4, 2021—Region/CVB FY22 Marketing Plans due to MOTBD in WebGrants
  • June 14-15, 2021—TAC Meeting (Via Zoom)
  • July 20, 2021—Region/CVB 4th Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • October 4, 2021—TAC Meeting

MOTBD Staff Update

Angela Blatt

Welcome Angela Blatt to the Marketing Bureau

We are pleased to announced that Angela Blatt has joined the Department of Commerce as the Marketing and Film Administrative Assistant. 

Angela joins us from Charlotte, North Carolina where she graduated from Kings College with a degree in Travel and Hospitality. She has more than 20 years of experience in not only administration but also in the tourism industry. Angela started her career in the hotel industry as the PBX operate to the front desk of a five star – five diamond hotel and has worked in a variety of other tourism related areas such as CVB’s, event planning to even new home construction; Angela brings a wealth of tourism experience to the department.

Her love for travel and tourism is one reason for her recent move to Montana back in December of 2020. When she is not traveling, Angela and her husband Jacob are chasing after their five-year-old son AJ, learning to fly fish or enjoying an afternoon as being a tourist. Please join us in welcoming Angela to the Department.

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

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   

MIM Members in the News

Knife Veterans—Before Thomas Rucker began a career in the U.S. Army, where he eventually became a Green Beret, he started making knives when he was just 8 years old. Aside from a few mentors over the years, like famous knife maker Weldon Whitley, he’s mostly self-taught and has been selling knives professionally for 40 years.

Originally from Houston, Rucker and his wife moved to the Flathead five years ago where he met Jesse Brown, a former U.S. Navy SEAL. Soon after meeting, Rucker showed Brown the art of knife making and they started Rucker Knives in January of 2020, with help from another Navy SEAL, James Kneebone.

We sell all over the country right now,” Rucker said. “We turn out 40 knives in a good week … Jesse has become a master maker all by himself.” Read more from the Flathead Beacon here

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.

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 Office

Production Companies Continue to Show Interest in Montana

Monday, in a monthly forum with City Club Missoula, film industry officials say they are seeing an influx in film crews and production companies wanting to film in Montana.

Over the last year, Montana’s had about six feature films shot in the state, as well as a few commercials and television shows like "Yellowstone" and MTV’s reality show, "Floribama Shore."

Allison Whitmer, the film commissioner for the Montana Film Office, said after the movie "A River Runs Through it" debuted, the following year Montana saw a 60% increase in fly-fishing. With last year's growth in filming in Montana, she adds they are seeing an increased interest in ranches, national parks and the western lifestyle. Read more from NBC Montana here

Outdoor Rec

Invasive Mussels Found in Aquarium Moss Balls Sold in Montana

Invasive zebra mussels found another avenue for potential infestation of Montana waters. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was notified last week that zebra mussels were detected in aquarium moss balls sold at a pet store in Washington state. FWP immediately checked pet stores around Montana and found invasive mussels in moss balls at multiple locations.

It appears these moss balls were imported from Ukraine to a distributor in California and were shipped to pet stores nationwide. The facility that imports the moss balls has been quarantined and all shipments of moss balls have been stopped.

A moss ball is a species of green algae that is formed into a ball and is 2 to 5 inches in diameter. Moss balls are purchased for home aquariums to help absorb harmful nutrients in the water and limit the growth of undesirable algae.

All of the mussels detected in Montana so far have been dead shells. However, live mussels were found on moss balls in Oregon and Idaho. FWP is working closely with other states and Federal agencies to address this nation-wide issue.

If you have recently purchased moss balls, remove them from the water, place them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer overnight. Additional guidance for addressing potential mussels in aquariums and how to treat tank water will be available soon. Please don’t dispose of your aquarium tank water in your household drain.

As a reminder, never dump aquarium tank pets, plants, or water into Montana’s waterways.

  • It is illegal to release fish and other aquarium pets into natural waterways. If you can’t keep your pet, find someone else who can adopt it, turn it in to a pet store or humane society, or euthanize it.
  • Aquarium plants can impact native aquatic plant and animal species. Let unwanted plants dry and then dispose in the garbage.
  • Aquarium water can harbor pathogens and diseases. Dispose of tank water on the ground away from waterways.

For more information, visit Don’t Let It Loose. If you have questions, you can also call the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) hotline at 406.444.2440.

Timing the Freezout Lake Waterfowl Migration

The old adage of “timing is everything” applies to many aspects of life, but it is also relevant to those who wish to view the migrating waterfowl at Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area in north-central Montana.

In a typical spring, several hundred thousand migrating ducks, geese, swans and other birds pass through the area on their way to northern nesting grounds. Freezout provides an important place for them to stop, rest and refuel on their journey.

The wildlife management area, managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, has also become popular with birdwatchers and anyone who wants to enjoy the chance to witness this natural spectacle. On a busy weekend during the peak of the migration, hundreds of visitors from across Montana and nearby states drive the roads at Freezout, waiting to catch sight of thousands of birds loafing on the area, lifting off the water to fly out and feed in nearby grain fields or continue their migration north.

Timing of a visit is critical. Although March is the peak month to see birds in the spring, it’s important to choose a day when large numbers of birds are present. Changing spring weather systems result in a constant string of waterfowl arriving and departing to continue their northward migration. In an average year, the last week to 10 days of March typically sees the largest number of migrating waterfowl.

Paying careful attention to the time of day can help wildlife watchers see more birds. Visitors should be aware that during mid-morning and mid-afternoon time periods the birds may be out feeding in surrounding fields and may be difficult to spot. By arriving early in the morning or later in the afternoon and being patient, visitors can increase their odds to witness one of the greatest wildlife migrations through Montana.

In past years, visitors relied upon a telephone message recorded by Freezout-based FWP staff for updates on bird migration status. Recently, staff have transitioned to a web-based platform. This new web page contains updated information on bird numbers, weather patterns and the overall status of the migration, as well as other WMA information. 

Freezout Lake

Photo courtesy of the Montana Natural History Center

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

Montana Dude RanchesMultiple Montana Dude Ranches Already at Full Occupancy for 2021 Season—Multiple Montana dude ranches are already at full occupancy according to the Montana Dude Ranchers' Association. Seven of the 18 ranches in the association reported being at full occupancy for the 2021 season. Rollover reservations from last year account for a lot of that occupancy. Read more from KULR8 here

YellowstoneTeton and Yellowstone National Parks had Busiest January in Decades—Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks logged the most visitors they have had in the month of January since the mid-90s, according to National Park Service statistics.

Recreational visits to Yellowstone National Park totaled 36,338, 40% more than the total for January 2020. January 2021 was Yellowstone’s busiest January since 1995. Read more from Jackson Hole News & Guide here.


ITRR Publishes New Report

The State of Short-Term Rentals in MontanaNew studies from the University of Montana assess the positive and negative impacts of short-term rentals on Montana communities, as well as examine the visitors who use short-term rentals (STRs), their motivations and characteristics. 

STRs are usually private accommodations that travelers book online through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO for less than 30 days. During the last five to seven years, the availability of and interest in STRs has soared, with little knowledge of their true scale in Montana, how these new accommodation choices are regulated and the makeup of STR guests and hosts. The new ITRR report answers those questions.

As of September 2020, over 12,000 STRs had been active in Montana at some point during the preceding 12 months, with Flathead and Gallatin counties showing the highest volumes. Meanwhile, Madison and Park counties have the highest densities of STRs (STRs per household).

Interviews with city and county officials in selected communities around the state revealed a wide variety of STR regulations. There are no regulations in some smaller towns and counties. Some areas require a business license or special use permit, fire marshal inspection, street parking standards or providing emergency phone numbers for guests. Some areas have zoning limits on the number of STRs allowed. To read or download the full report, click here

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 8 from Destination Analysts

Americans exhibit competing and complicated emotions around safety and travel—increasingly confident, dreaming and planning travel at pandemic record levels, as well as opening back up to urban destinations—but still largely leaning into pandemic measures and protocols. Meanwhile, the COVID crisis’ alteration of business travel may be with us longer than we may have thought.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • With Texas and Mississippi announcing the lifting of COVID restrictions in their states this past week, interestingly there was a very small bump in the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S., inching up to 16.3% from 13.7%.

  • In response to the question “All else equal, if a state fully lifted its coronavirus restrictions now, would this make that state a more or less appealing destination to visit?”, about 45% of Americans say this would makes the state a LESS appealing destination, while over one-third say this would make the state MORE appealing.

  • Nevertheless, half of Americans remain optimistic about the coming month. Americans also continue to feel safer—the average rating of the more than two dozen travel and leisure activities we track as “unsafe” has fallen another 3% this week to 40.0%.

  • The COVID-19 vaccines continue to serve as a travel stimulator, with 37.8% who have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available—up nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. However, there is also declining agreement that they will wait to travel until they get a vaccine.

  • While those who have received or plan to definitely receive a COVID vaccine express relief and excitement about it, when those who will not or are unsure about inoculation were asked their primary reasons for this, concerns about the vaccines’ side effects and that the vaccines were not adequately tested are most common.

  • Openness to travel inspiration grew another 5% and reached another pandemic record high—now at 60.6%. In the past week, a pandemic-record 71.1% travel dreamt and/or planned. 15.0% said they actually made a booking, largely hotels and airline tickets. About 84% of American travelers have trips at least tentatively planned, and there is a growing percentage reporting planned trips for May (20.3%).

  • Well over half of American travelers—54.4%—say they would be interested in using a Visitor Information Center on their domestic trips this year. In terms of their expectations for these centers, they largely want the traditional—recommendations from staff and physical brochures—with the pandemic principles of masking and distancing.

  • Urban destinations continue on their paths of tourism recovery. This week, 38.8% of travelers taking leisure trips in the next 3 months report they will visit an urban destination, outpacing rural and beach. In addition, several iconic U.S. cities are back on the Hot List of the domestic destinations Americans name as one of the destinations they most want to visit in 2021.

  • Almost half of those employed by companies with business travel as part of their operations report that business travel has now resumed—nearly twice what it was six months ago.

  • Of those who traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 49.5% feel the pandemic has or will change the way their employer does business travel—most commonly fewer trips overall (at 59.8%, up from 51.4% the week of December 7th). Perhaps most alarmingly, 53% of business travelers currently agree they hope to not travel as much for work as they did prior to the pandemic.

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

Funding Resources

USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Program

The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income.

You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative or are proposing a mid-tier value chain. Grants are awarded through a national competition. To learn more or apply for this grant, click here.

Other News

Why do Destination Marketers Need Passionography?

Imagine this scenario. Your destination has amazing beaches and you want to invite surfers to ride the waves. Many questions instantly come to mind.

Where do you find surfers? What do you say to them and how do you deliver that message? What do they really care about? What motivates their travel plans? Are they willing to spend more? Do these traveller types align with our community?

Passionography can help you answer all these questions and more. Researching people’s passions helps you understand how they act and think. It sheds light on the places they gather, what’s important to them, and how and why they make decisions. It even helps you understand the language they use. Here are six reasons why passionography is a destination marketer’s best friend:

  1. Helps destinations attract the right type of visitors while developing the right travel experiences
  2. Helps you communicate effectively with your ideal visitors
  3. Uncovers opportunity beyond traditional geographic markets
  4. Helps you develop experiences in your destination
  5. Highly efficient media targeting
  6. More positive visitor advocacy

Read more from the Destination Think! blog here.

For Travel, a Sustainable Comeback?

With travel stalled for the past 10 months, its sustainable comeback has been a popular topic. Now with Covid-19 vaccines in distribution, and the prospect of travel reviving later this year, some travel operators, local governments and nonprofit organizations are walking the talk, with new eco-oriented programs, trips, transportation initiatives and preserves.

“I think we will see a significant pivot in the tourism industry in 2021,” said Gregory Miller, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Responsible Travel, noting that the focus is “not on who is benefiting the travel business, but who’s benefiting the community.” Read more from the New York Times here.


On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will officially begin enforcing the REAL ID Act of 2005 at airports. This will require all Americans to present REAL ID-compliant identification to go through security. For specific information on Real ID in Montana, click 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:

May 12, 2021 (9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.)Free 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