Friday Flash 4/9/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Save the Dates...

  • 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
  • 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 Barb Sanem or call her at 406.841.2769. 
    • May 26, 2021
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021

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.

Governor's Conference on Tourism & Recreation

Rims in Billings

Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Recreation—April 17-19, 2022 in Billings

The annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Recreation has been moved to April 17-19, 2022 in beautiful Billings. We are eager to gather in-person next April bringing together tourism and recreation leaders from every corner of the state.

The Governor’s Conference will continue to elevate the industry by inspiring innovation, educating through on-the-ground insights, connecting tourism and recreation partners and businesses, and drawing inspiration from nationally renowned speakers. We are also working closely with our Billings partners to offer some unique local experiences. Stay tuned for more information on Conference content and a future registration link.

Made in Montana

Shop Local

We encourage you to support your local businesses when possible. The Made in Montana online directory is a great place to find Made in Montana items and support local businesses. 

Eat Local

Now more than ever, the "eat local" movement is gaining interest. People want to know where their food is coming from. Our Taste our Place program aims to promote and increase the use of locally sourced ingredients at Montana restaurants, bars and other establishments serving food and beverages. Check out this list of Taste our Place members and savor the Montana flavor when dining out.   

Swanky Roots


Swanky Roots in Billings will resume tours of their unique greenhouse starting this spring. If you are interested in aquaponics and love fresh greens, schedule a tour of their facility at least a week in advance of your planned visit. More information about tours and purchasing fresh produce on their website at

2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow 

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts is rescheduled for September 10-11, 2021 (TENTATIVE) in Helena 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.


Social Media

The social media team at Visit Montana continually strives to grow and engage its followers in fun and innovative ways. The newest venture for the social team has been the launch of GIF stickers on Instagram and Facebook for followers to use when posting stories. These fun, Montana-inspired stickers can be found here on Visit Montana's Giphy page.

For information on how to find and use the stickers, visit our Instagram page @visitmontana.

Social 2

International Marketing

Registration Now Open for International Roundup Supplier Seminar!

Montana, along with its Great American West partners Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota, and Rocky Mountain International, is hosting a FREE virtual International Roundup Supplier Seminar on May 12, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Hear from tour operators in five international markets and from overseas representatives about the outlook for international travel recovery. Learn what's been happening overseas and about our region's recovery efforts. Click here to learn more about the speakers.

To register, click here.  If you have questions, please contact Kim Birrell.

Tribal Tourism News

Tribal Tourism Digital Business Development Grant

The Office of Indian Country Economic Development (OICED) is pleased to announce the new Tribal Tourism Digital Business Development Grant. 

This is a pilot grant program to help tourism-related entrepreneurs with digital assets to reach potential customers and convert them into sales. 

Eligible project categories include professional content development, website development, and virtual experiences. The maximum award is up to $6,250 per applicant.

The application cycle is open through Friday, April 30.

Although tourism-related businesses may be funded through the Indian Equity Fund too, this is the first OICED grant program specifically designed for them. It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss. For more information or to apply for this grant, click here

Outdoor Rec

Montana Access Project Path Ahead Webinar Series:

April 13, 2021 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.)Energizing Anaconda's Frontcountry to Backcountry Connections—In this webinar, panelists will discuss how unique partnerships and local champions are revitalizing Anaconda’s outdoor recreation assets

  • Learn how Anaconda’s Washoe Park Trail system is a key natural asset for residents and visitors alike
  • Why a trail system that connects Anaconda’s frontcountry to backcountry is essential for economic vitality and quality of life
  • Decade long silver lining to the Superfund process
  • Costly lessons learned from a “build first, plan later” approach
  • Introduction to Anaconda Community Foundation and its unique partnership with Anaconda Trails

For more information or to register for this webinar, click here

National Park Week

The Department of the Interior announced that National Park Week – an annual weeklong celebration of America’s national parks – will run from April 17 to April 25. National Park Week encourages the public to explore the vast network of our national parks, sacred sites, and historical landmarks, as well as our shared heritage contained within them.

“Every national park has its own unique story to tell, yet so much of our nation’s shared heritage can be found in the towering forests and vast desert expanses that make up our National Park System," said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “The outdoors has also proven to be a welcome refuge during the past year of the pandemic. I encourage everyone to enjoy the beauty and wonder of our national parks safely and responsibly.”

To kick off National Park Week, every national park will have a free admission day on Saturday, April 17. The public is asked to recreate responsibly when visiting parks, including following rules requiring masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained, or to explore parks virtually through a variety of engaging online activities. Visit or for more virtual programming.

The 2021 National Park Week theme days are:

  • Saturday, April 17: Free Admission and ParkRx Day
  • Sunday, April 18: VIP (Volunteers in Parks) Sunday
  • Monday, April 19: Military Monday
  • Tuesday, April 20: Transformation Tuesday
  • Wednesday, April 21: Wayback Wednesday
  • Thursday, April 22: Earth Day
  • Friday, April 23: Friendship Friday
  • Saturday, April 24: Junior Ranger Day
  • Sunday, April 25: BARK Ranger Day

For more information or to read the full press release, click here

Montana's Outdoor Recreation Surge Won't Subside this Summer, Officials Predict

With warmer months ahead, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is gearing up for what is expected to be another busy season following last year’s surge in outdoor recreation.

Montana set a number of records when it came to outdoor recreation in 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic first hitting the state in March, game wardens, state parks and invasive species’ check stations all saw visitation — which was already on an upward trajectory — push to new highs as Montana’s outdoors became a welcome escape. Even with restrictions easing, state officials still expect 2021 to be just as busy if not busier.

“It is hard to predict, but we’re looking at the numbers internally across the system at fishing access sites, state parks, the access the public gets at our wildlife management areas, and we’re expecting all of those to be at or above what we saw last year,” said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon. “Certainly some factors might change the details a little bit, but it’d be foolish of us not to prepare for a busier year.” Read more from the Helena IR here

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

Flathead ValleyFlathead Valley Faces Rental Car Crunch As Airport Braces For A Record-Breaking Year—The tourism industry on Glacier National Park’s west side expects a record-breaking season this summer, but there’s concern a nationwide rental car shortage could dampen the comeback of visitors flying into northwest Montana.

At Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier, customers are eagerly calling in to book their rafting trips for this summer. They gather all the normal reservation info, but the staff are also asking customers flying into town if they have a rental car. Much of the available inventory this summer is already booked.

As the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention OKs travel for fully vaccinated people and faith in the safety of air-travel is growing, local business owners and tourism agencies say there aren’t enough rental cars to keep up with the number of tourists expected to fly into Glacier International Airport.

For those without a car rental reservation already, Glacier Raft Company co-owner Cassie Baldelli is pointing clients toward private car rental apps like Turo. There’s also hope more locals will become Uber drivers. Read more from MTPR here

White Sulphur SpringsTenth Annual Red Ants Pants Music Festival Confirmed for July 2021—The Red Ants Pants Music Festival will return to White Sulphur Springs for its tenth anniversary this July, after being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Red Ants Pants said in a press release the festival is scheduled for July 22-25, and tickets are on sale now. The full lineup is expected to be released in May.

The festival has opted to cap the number of tickets sold at less than 60% of average attendance, according to the release, after months of research and consultation with state and local health officials and community members.

The release said attendees are encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before the festival and to help create a safe, welcoming experience for all by following new health and safety measures. Read more from KTVH here

COVID-19 Research

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of April 5 from Destination Analysts

As Americans feel the country is more than halfway back to normalcy, positive sentiment towards travel reached new pandemic-era peaks. And while vaccine passports are being debated in the political realm, it appears that, particularly for certain activities, an important proportion of American travelers is in favor of proof-of-vaccination policies.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • When asked the likelihood that the U.S. will experience another COVID surge in 2021, 53.8% of American travelers said that this was indeed likely—an anticipation strongest in the Midwest and among older travelers.

  • Yet while the majority expects another surge to occur, they don’t appear to believe it will necessarily impact themselves. Anxiety about contracting coronavirus—as well as the pandemic’s financial impact—is down.

  • On average, American travelers believe the United States is 52.6% back to normalcy right now. Nearly half believe their life will be back to “normal” by September.

  • Compared to last April, it is clear Americans feel very differently, particularly as it relates to travel’s safety. Average perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has declined 30 percentage points in the last year. Travel avoidance—including in general, internationally and for conventions/conferences —reached record lows this week. This week also marks another pandemic record for travel readiness, with 69.3% saying “ready” is what describes their state-of-mind.

  • About two-thirds of Americans are highly open to travel inspiration right now and the number of Americans actively dreaming about and planning travel reached a 2021 peak at 77.7%. A 2021 record 33.6% researched travel ideas online in the last week, while another record 17.8% made travel reservations or bookings.

  • In terms of when Americans will go traveling, July continues to strengthen as a peak month for travel, as now one-third of American travelers report at least tentative trip plans for that month. Travel also looks to continue this Fall—nearly a quarter of American travelers say they have trips planned for September and about 22% have at least tentative plans in October.

  • This growing positivity towards travel overall extends to how Americans feel about tourism in their own communities. This week, nearly 54% say they are comfortable going out for leisure activities where they live—a pandemic-era record-high. Meanwhile, 41.3% say they are not ready for tourists in town just yet—however, this is a far cry from the 67.6% who felt this way a year ago (and also represents a record low). Positive sentiment towards tourism in one’s own community is generally much stronger among those Millennial-age compared to those in older generations.

  • It appears that, particularly for certain activities, an important proportion of American travelers is in favor of proof-of-vaccination policies. When asked how comfortable they would be with vaccine passports being used widely in the U.S. to allow access to public activities, 52.0% said they would be comfortable or very comfortable—a feeling strongest among older travelers and those who have already been vaccinated.

  • A majority of American travelers also say they believe proof of COVID-19 vaccination should be required for entry to the United States from another country, boarding a cruise line, and boarding a commercial flight. More than 4-in-10 say they believe vaccination proof should be required to attend an indoor performance like a concert and to attend large scale outdoor sporting events.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Montana Aware

Montana Aware Badge

Montana Aware Toolkit & Resources

Toolkit components with Explore Responsibly messaging are now available to download. These messages focus on a variety of ways to promote responsible travel, from planning ahead to protecting the outdoors.

Tourism partners and businesses 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. Paper applications must be postmarked by May 4, 2021. Applications are permitted via and must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 29, 2021. To learn more or apply for this grant, click here.

Other News

How Tour Operators Are Adapting as Travel Restarts

If you think it's tough running a tour company in a pandemic, guess what? You're right. As governments issued travel bans in March 2020, tour operators scrambled to whisk their clients home. Some companies shifted from international to domestic tours; others, such as Exodus Travels and not-for-profit Road Scholar, hosted virtual programs. Every company canceled tours, which was painful for clients and tour operators alike.

One year later, companies are rebounding. In a survey by the United States Tour Operators Association, 63 percent of respondents reported an increase in new bookings for 2021. Some of that surging interest is in last-minute trips. In normal years, for instance, travelers book domestic tours with Austin Adventures four to eight months in advance. In 2021, the Montana-based company's U.S. trips will likely sell out by June (though it's adding new departures). Many tour operators are seeing similar demand, and as more Americans receive their vaccinations, some travelers want to leave home now. Read more from AARP 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

International Wildlife Film FestivalApril 17May 15, 2021The International Wildlife Film Festival is expanding its habitat this year, with movies streaming online and at outdoor screens around town for a full month.

The 44th annual festival will present 65 films from around the world that cover animals near (grizzly bears in Yellowstone) to far (Australian wildlife in the aftermath of the fires) and subjects such as viral spread from animals to humans, or the sustainability programs we aren’t taking full advantage of. For more information about this year's event, visit

Visit Southeast Montana Tourism Marketing Workshop SeriesVisit Southeast Montana is offering FREE tourism marketing workshops to you, our tourism partners! This year, we'll be covering a wide range of topics from content to social media and more. 

Each of the workshops will run from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Thursdays via Zoom. Click on any of the sessions below to register.

  • April 15: Expert Panel: Content is King—What is content and where do you get it? Not sure what type of content is best for your brand? Join this panel discussion as experts share their tips and tricks for leveraging content. 
  • April 22: Social Media 201—Come in with basic knowledge of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and we'll provide a deeper dive into planning out a strategy for your business, particularly using content managers or studio creator. Learn how social media can be one of your biggest assets even with a small budget. 
  • April 29: How Do We Market the Visit Southeast Montana Region—Tune in for a peek of the current Out Here marketing and advertising campaign - this is a campaign that you wouldn't normally see as it is targeted outside of the region. We'll also allow time for Q&A of any sort, along with suggestions for future sessions. 

Questions? Contact Megan Hoffman at

National Travel & Tourism Week – May 2-8, 2021National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) is an annual tradition for the U.S. travel community. It’s a time when travel and tourism professionals across the country unite to celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being.

This year, NTTW will recognize the POWER OF TRAVEL and the industry’s role in bringing back our vibrant communities, restoring the U.S. economy, rebuilding our workforce and reconnecting America.

Use these resources with the media, elected officials and the public to share how the Power of Travel will help drive America's recovery.

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar SeriesAmerican 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: