Friday Flash 6/11/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Save the Dates...

  • June 14-15, 2021—TAC Meeting. Click here for meeting agenda, other materials and information to attend in-person, via Zoom or by phone. 
  • July 20, 2021—Region/CVB 4th Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • October 4, 2021—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • 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. 
    • July 28, 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021

Recreate Responsibly

Rec Responsibly

Recreate Responsibly Toolkit and Resources

The Montana Office of Tourism is committed to keeping Montana’s outdoor spaces, communities, residents, and visitors safe. Please join us communicating these guidelines for responsible recreation to visitors traveling throughout Montana.

  • Know Before You Go 
  • Plan Ahead 
  • Explore Locally 
  • Practice Physical Distancing 
  • Play It Safe
  • Leave No Trace 
  • Build an Inclusive Outdoors 

As part of this initiative, the Montana Office of Tourism has developed a toolkit of resources to help you educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices.

The toolkit includes:

  • Printable Posters
  • Printable Flyer
  • Printable Table Tents
  • Website Copy
  • Social Media Posts
  • Social Media Badges
  • Press Release Templates
  • Radio PSA Templates

To learn more or download the toolkit, click here

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.   

2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow 

The Made in Montana Tradeshow for Food & Gifts is scheduled for September 10-11, 2021 in Helena at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. 

Outdoor Recreation


Montana State Parks Sees Record Visitation so far for 2021

Mild weather during the first quarter of 2021 contributed to a record number of visitors for Montana State Parks.

MSP recorded 393,175 park visitors in the first quarter, a 20.2% increase over 2020 and a 78% increase over the same period in 2019. Of the 40 state parks that were seasonally open during this period, 80% experienced an increase in estimated visitation compared with last year.

Day use and camping occupancy are projected to rise across the state during the spring and summer months. “As our parks prepare to welcome people from across our state, the country and the world, we continue to prioritize unparalleled customer service and public safety for our guests and staff,” said Beth Shumate, parks division administrator with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Our 55 parks, including seven National Historic Landmarks, truly tell the story of the Treasure State. We look forward to a successful season and hope that our parks create lasting memories for all our visitors.”

The top five most visited state parks in Q1 2021 were: 

  1. Giant Springs State Park Great Falls - 81,979 visits (up 7.8%)
  2. Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 33,606 visits (up 18.2%) 
  3. Flathead Lake State Park (All Units), Flathead Lake - 28,921 visits (down 2.4%)
  4. Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts - 28,820 visits (up 50.3%)
  5. Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 27,316 visits (up 13.4%)

Visitation snapshot for the first quarter of 2021—Below is a list of the most highly visited state parks in each of FWP's administrative regions:

  • Northwest Montana (Kalispell): Flathead Lake State Park (all units) had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 28,921 visits, a decrease of 2.4% over the same time period last year.
  • West Montana (Missoula): Milltown State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 17,358 visits, an increase of 116.1% over the same time period last year.
  • Southwest Montana (Bozeman): Missouri Headwaters State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 9,200 visits, a decrease of 11% over the same time period last year.
  • North-central Montana (Great Falls): Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation in the region, with an estimated 81,979 visits, an increase of 7.8% over the same time period last year.
  • South-central Montana (Billings): Cooney Reservoir State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 28,820 visits, an increase of 50.3% over the same time period last year.
  • Eastern Montana (Miles City): Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 20,248 visits, an increase of 32.3% over the same time period last year.

National Park Visitor Spending Contributed $28.6 Billion to U.S. Economy in 2020

Amid pandemic report finds park visitation supported 234,000 jobs in hospitality, recreation, transportation

The National Park Service announced that visitor spending in communities near national parks in 2020 resulted in a $28.6 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 234,000 jobs.

“The pandemic reminds us all of the importance of the outdoors not only to our economy, but also to our health and wellness,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “We are excited to welcome visitors back outdoors as weather warms and more people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We are expecting high visitation this summer and encourage visitors to explore our website as they plan their trips.”

According to the National Park Service report, 2020 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, approximately 237 million visitors spent $14.5 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park. Of the 234,000 jobs supported by visitor spending, 194,400 jobs were in communities located within 60 miles of a park.

As for the economics of visitor spending, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $5 billion in economic output nationally. The restaurant sector had the second greatest impact, with $3 billion in economic output nationally. Visitor spending supported more than 43,100 jobs in lodging and 45,900 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending supported more than 18,100 jobs in recreation industries and 14,300 jobs in retail. Read full press release here

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

MontanaTourism in 2020 was Down, but Recovered Despite COVID Pandemic—Out of state tourism was down in 2020 as expected due to the pandemic, but the steady stream of out of state visitors throughout the year enabled the travel and tourism industry to keep its head above water.

University of Montana Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research Assistant Director Kara Grau provided details from a report released on Tuesday.

“Things in January through March of 2020 were looking really great,” began Grau. “We had good visitation, and spending by travelers was higher than it had been the previous first quarter in 2019. But then things of course, kind of shut down as the pandemic hit. The Canadian border closed and travel restrictions were put in place.” Grau said visitation was definitely down, but not out in Montana.

“For the year our estimate is that travelers who came into Montana spent about $3.2 billion” she said. “Spending was down from 2019 by about 16%. The number of travelers was down about 12% from 2019, but we still had a little over 11 million non resident visitors in the state though for the year.” As the year went on, Grau said tourism and visitation began to pick up even more. Read more from Newstalk KGVO here

Central MontanaAn Insider’s Guide to Exploring the Missouri River in Central Montana—While people flock to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, those of us living in Central Montana relish our uncrowded trails and practically endless recreational opportunities along the Missouri River, prairie landscape, and nearby mountain ranges. From my home base in Great Falls, the greatest challenge is deciding what to do and which direction to go.

Winding through the heart of Great Falls, the Missouri River is the lifeblood of Central Montana. It’s natural for me to gravitate to the nearly 60-mile-long (with more in the works) River’s Edge Trail that follows the Missouri, for a quick walk or an extended bicycle ride. Roughly 20 miles of the trail is paved, while the remaining 40 miles offer spectacular routes through the grasslands, including courses with intimidating names such as “Mayhem” and “Chaos” that skirt along the edge above the river. Read more from Roadtrippers Magazine here

WhitefishCatch the Train to These Bike-Friendly Destinations—Travel restrictions are easing, making distant-destination flights abundant. But carbon-intensive airplanes are far from the only way to get around. Train travel is not only more climate-friendly than air travel but it’s also more bike-friendly and affords way more scenic views.

Amtrak has recently made it even easier to bring a bicycle on board, rendering fuel-filled vehicles completely unnecessary for many trips. Given the current car-rental shortage across the country (and rental cars’ accompanying skyrocketing price tags), forgoing automobiles altogether is not just better for the environment, it’s also increasingly wallet-friendly. Read more from the Sierra Club here


New Information from ITRR

2020 Nonresident Visitation, Spending, and Economic Impact Estimates—This report highlights estimates of the number of nonresident travelers to the state during 2020, as well as estimates of travel-related spending and associated economic impact to Montana’s economy. Read the full report here

Social Media and Its Impact on Travelers to Montana—News, real or not, travels faster than ever with the rise of social media platforms. Nearly everyone, everywhere, is capable of generating and disseminating information to large volumes of potential consumers. This information is often out of the direct control of the destination, business, or other entity for whom the news relates; it is unowned media.

When a destination receives a flurry of attention from these various sources, either good or bad, several important questions arise in attempting to understand their impacts: (1) how long do these impressions last in potential visitor’s minds? And, (2) do these events/images influence travel planning?

The overall purpose of this study is to build a better understanding of the degree to which unowned media, particularly social media, influences traveler behavior and perceptions of Montana, whether positive or negative. A secondary purpose is to provide specificity to the level and type of social media use that some visitors to Montana engage in (i.e., what platforms are they on, how does this vary by age, how often do they use specific platforms, etc.). Read the full report here

Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of June 7 from Destination Analysts

Despite many finding their fellow travelers irritating, Memorial Day trips boosted travel comfort & confidence, and now a pandemic record-breaking 80% of Americans say they are in a travel ready state-of-mind. To capitalize on this heightened readiness, marketers would be wise to reach travelers with advertising that is honest, friendly and big on fun.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Memorial Day trips increase American’s comfort with traveling: Over the Memorial Day holiday, nearly a quarter (22.4%) of American travelers took a trip. Of which, 64.6% said they had a negative-leaning experience—most commonly restaurants not being fully open (19.1%), crowding (19.0%) and poor COVID-19 safety standards (17.9%). In addition, about 40% said they found other travelers they encountered on these trips to be irritating. Still though, these trips are building traveler confidence. In fact, well over half (53.6%) said their Memorial Day trip helped them feel more comfortable with being out and traveling again.
  • Cruising appears to be on the rebound: With decreasing concerns around COVID and Americans’ confidence in travel’s safety continuing to grow, this week the percent of travel bookers who made cruise reservations for an upcoming trip more than doubled in the last week (from 7.0% to 16.1%). In addition, perceptions of traveling by cruise line being unsafe has hit a pandemic-era low (46.0%–down from 60.4% at the beginning of April).
  • Vaccines for children are on the rise: More American parents than ever during the pandemic now say they will have their children vaccinated against COVID (59.7% up from 44.5% last week). However, expectations for adult American travelers has stalled. This week 72.9% say they will or have been vaccinated, a figure that has been stagnant over the last 5 weeks and has yet to surpass the 75% mark.
  • A pandemic record breaking 8-in-10 Americans now say they are ready to travel: This growing readiness is certainly fueled by feelings that the worst of the virus is behind us. In fact, another record breaking 67.8% expect the coronavirus situation in the U.S. will get better in the next month. Meanwhile, a historic low 6.7% expect things to get worse.
  • The demand for summer travel continues its positive trend: With increasingly more Americans in a travel ready state-of-mind, the outlook for summer leisure travel continues to be healthy. The expected number of leisure trips in the next 3 months grew this week to 3.0 trips on average. While small towns and rural destinations are the likeliest types of destinations that travelers will visit, as has been seen over the past month, urban destinations are returning, with approximately 40% saying they anticipate visiting a city in the next 3 months. Average leisure trip spending during this time period is anticipated to be $1,810, higher than $1,691 reported last week.
  • More Americans than ever during the pandemic recall seeing travel-related advertising: In total, 45.5% reported seeing advertisements for travel destinations in the past month. Broadcast television (42.7%) and online advertisements (41.5%) were the top mediums in which Americans recall travel ads, while ads for hotels (44.1%) and theme parks (42.2%) were the types of ads most widely recalled. Travel ads are also bringing joy to Americans as well as influencing destination decisions. When asked to consider the most recent travel ad they saw, over half said these ads made them feel happy (53.3%). Importantly though, a third of American travelers say that they have indeed decided to visit a destination as a result of having seen an advertisement (32.2%).
  • American travelers want ads that are honest, friendly and fun: Websites found via search engine, broadcast television, Facebook, streaming video, print magazines and email campaigns are the best ways to reach Americans with travel messaging. Younger travelers in particular (Millennials or younger and Gen X) are especially likely to turn to Facebook to learn about new destinations to visit. The most appealing tones in travel messaging right now are ones that are honest, friendly and fun. A significant rise compared to one year ago, the desire for a fun/entertaining tone in travel ads has increased 30 percentage points, from 21.7% to now 47.1%.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Other News

Governor Gianforte Launches Come Home Montana Campaign

Governor Greg Gianforte launched a website Monday as part of the administration’s new campaign to encourage Montanans, who have moved to other states, to come back home to Montana.

“For too long, Montana’s most valuable export has been our kids and grandkids,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Our quality of life is second to none, and we’re reminding former residents of what a great place Montana is to live, work, and raise a family. We’re growing opportunities and creating an environment so more Montanans can thrive and prosper. Let’s bring our kids and grandkids back home.”

The campaign and new website,, encourage Montanans who have relocated to other states to return to Montana to work remotely, start a business here, or take advantage of job opportunities across the state’s industries.

To bridge the digital divide and make working remotely more accessible than ever, the administration is in early stages of deploying $275 million for broadband expansion. In addition to highlighting opportunities for remote work and employment, the campaign highlights the value of a Montana education. To view the website and learn more about the campaign, click here.

Funding Resources

CDBG Planning Grant

The 2021 spring cycle for the Community Development Block Grant Planning Grant is open. The deadline to apply is June 18, 2021, 11:59 p.m. Local governments can receive up to $50,000 to assist in the completion of growth policies, preliminary architectural reports, comprehensive economic development strategy plans, downtown/ neighborhood revitalization or master plans, historic and architectural preservation plans, feasibility and housing studies and market analyses, and more. For application guidelines and more information, visit COMDEV.MT.GOV

Other Dates/Events to Note

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:

June 29-30, 2021MEDA Summer Conference—It is time to identify priorities and build strategies based on the Montana Next Generation of Community and Economic Development Tools study. MEDA and the NextGen Stakeholder Group are providing a facilitator so that on June 29th and 30th, we can identify priorities and strategize. A packet of “homework” will be sent prior to the conference so that you can be prepared. YOU, whether via Zoom or in person, are needed at the table. It’s time. For more information or to register, click here

June 30-July 1, 2021Western Governors' Association (WGA) Annual Meeting (Virtual)—The event hosted by WGA Chair, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, will highlight the Governors discussing their ongoing work to manage the impact of COVID-19 and insightful conversations about the most significant issues facing the region. The two-day meeting will feature the Governors in roundtables with special guests on topics such as emergency response, public lands challenges, shared stewardship, infrastructure and workforce. For more information or to register, click here