Friday Flash 7/2/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Wildland Fire Information for Travelers

The Montana Department of Commerce will again provide relevant wildland fire updates and resources for tourism partners and the traveling public at MARKETMT.COM. The page will be updated as fire activity impacts popular destination areas.

Save the Dates...

  • July 20, 2021—Region/CVB 4th Quarter Financial Reports Due 
  • October 4-5, 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

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.

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. To learn more or download the toolkit, click here

Tourism Grant Program

Tourism Grant Application Cycle Opens August 1!

We are happy to announce that the annual application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program will open at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, 2021 via Submittable, an online platform. The 2022 application cycle will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15.

In preparation for the application cycle, the Tourism Grant Program will host two webinar training workshops to provide a review of the program guidelines and timeline; updates to the FY22 cycle and an overview of the application. 

  • July 8 at 1:00 p.m.
  • July 22 at 2:00 p.m.

To register for one of the FY22 pre-application workshops click this link.  

For more information about the Tourism Grant Program and the annual application cycle please visit our website at MARKETMT.COM

Made in Montana

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. 

Wholesale Buyer Registration Now Open
Join us for the 2021 Made in Montana Tradeshow to discover all new Made in Montana products as well as old favorites for your retail space. This year's show will feature 125 Made in Montana producers, over 30 new exhibitors, and our Native American Made in Montana Pavilion. 

Buyers must meet the following qualifications:

  1. Own/Manage/Buy for a retail store, shop, restaurant, or similarly associated business OR be staff with purchasing authority
  2. Provide documentation of relevant occupation/status with a business card or similar (invoice, business checks, etc.)
  3. Register no more than four buyers/representatives per business - unless prior permission is granted by show management

To learn more or register as a wholesale buyer, click here

Seeking Nominations for 2021 Retailer of the Year!
This award recognizes a Made in Montana retailer who makes an outstanding effort to represent the Made in Montana brand, supports Montana producers, and is committed to promoting the sale of Made in Montana goods to residents and visitors alike. 

If you know of a retailer that fits the description, this is your chance to nominate them to be honored as the 2021 Made in Montana Retailer of the Year.

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.   

Tribal News

Office of Indian Country Economic Development Now Accepting Applications for the FY22 Montana Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant 

PURPOSE: The Montana Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Grants of the Indian Country Economic Development (ICED) Program funding are intended to support tribal members in Montana to start or grow their business by deploying funds to support their business strategy. Funds may be used for the purchase of land, building and equipment, assets including furnishings, equipment and technology and selected use of working capital and business operations.

GRANT APPLICATION PERIOD: July 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS: Tribal enrolled members of Montana tribes are the only eligible applicants for this portion of the Program. All applications must include documentation of tribal enrollment.

GRANT AMOUNT: A maximum of $14,000 per eligible applicant will be available in fiscal year 2022.

APPLICATION ASSISTANCE: Native American Business Advisors are available on each Reservation to assist applicants as they develop their grant proposals. Contact information for each advisor is available at NABA.

For more information contact Luke Robinson or visit the website.

Montana Tribe Welcomes Back Tourists After Risky Shutdown Pays Off

Millions of people will flock to Montana’s Glacier National Park this summer after last year’s pandemic-caused tourism skid, and they will once more be able sightsee and camp nearby on the recently reopened Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

The tourists’ return is a relief to the owners of the restaurants, campgrounds and hotels forced to shut down last summer when Blackfeet tribal leaders closed the roads leading to the eastern side of the popular park.

Those closures fed worries that a major economic driver for residents on the reservation would be crippled. But the tribe’s priority was protecting its elders and stemming the spread of the coronavirus. It worked: The closures and the tribe’s strictly enforced stay-at-home orders and mask mandate led to a low daily case rate held up as an example by federal health officials. Now, boasting one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, the reservation is back open for business.

On a recent day at the Two Sisters Café, a stone’s throw from Glacier National Park’s eastern boundary, workers stacked dishes and stocked freezers in preparation for a busy season as demand soars for the wide-open spaces national parks can offer during the lingering pandemic. Read more from NPR here

Outdoor Recreation

Seven Montana Organizations and Agencies Partner in "Recreate Responsibly" Campaign

In an unprecedented collaboration, seven Western Montana and Montana agencies and organizations have partnered to launch a comprehensive campaign that addresses challenges impacting the entire region and state.

Glacier National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Flathead National Forest, Montana Office of Tourism, Glacier Country Tourism, Discover Kalispell and Explore Whitefish have launched “Recreate Responsibly,” a nationwide initiative that guides and informs those recreating in our state to be good stewards of Montana’s people, culture and land. The campaign targets visitors, residents and businesses, providing education and tools for best practices on how to minimize impact, leave no trace, know before you go, prevent wildland fires, stop aquatic invasive species, and travel safely.

“In the spring I reached out to a couple of our trusted tourism partners and state and federal agencies to discuss the upcoming season and challenges we experienced last season,” says Gina Kerzman, Public Affairs Officer at Glacier National Park. “Several partners volunteered to join our efforts, including the state of Montana, as it became apparent that we were all dealing with similar issues. I’m thrilled at what resulted in an action-based, statewide initiative and the positive impact this campaign could have not only on Glacier National Park, but the entire region and state.”

Says Racene Friede, President and CEO of Glacier Country Tourism, the eight-county tourism region encompassing Western Montana, “Whether the issue is properly extinguishing a campfire, interaction with wild animals, trail etiquette, properly disposing of waste, traveling safely in a COVID-19 era, or creating an inclusive outdoors, this impacts us all. Glacier Country Tourism was already a partner with the nation-wide Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and the expansion of this into a regional and state-wide collaboration just made sense from both a pooling-of-resources and power-in-numbers point of view.”
Building upon messaging from Recreate and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, the comprehensive campaign includes resources available to businesses throughout the state as well as marketing and messaging targeted at travelers and recreators.

The consumer-facing (visitor and resident) campaign includes webpages, airport signage, statewide television and radio advertising, billboards, fuel media video PSAs, rack cards, trailhead signage, social media advertising and posts, videos, and a Recreate Responsibly “pledge” visitors and residents can sign.

The business-partner facing campaign includes a certification program, and a toolkit including printable posters, printable flyers, printable table tents, sample website copy, sample social media posts, sample PSAs, and social media badges.

The Montana Office of Tourism created the toolkit of resources available to businesses statewide, and a mini grant program for Destination Management Organizations to help integrate and produce online and print materials. “We recognize that not all communities across Montana have access to the same resources,” says Jan Stoddard of the Montana Office of Tourism, “and yet we’re all dealing with the same issues. This grant program helps level the playing field so our smaller communities are not left behind in having the opportunity to share the Recreate Responsibly messaging.”

Says Friede, “We recognize that as this industry changes, so must we all. Our organization is no longer just a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) that simply markets Western Montana as a tourism destination. Our role must also be one of destination management that assists in the preservation of the places and experiences that make our area so attractive to visitors in the first place. The Recreate Responsibly initiative is a fantastic step in that direction.” For the full press release and more information, click here

Heritage/Cultural News

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience to Launch to the Traveling Public on July 19

The National Park Service is proud to announce that the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience will be officially launched and promoted live to the traveling public beginning Monday, July 19.

The site remains active for nominations to the Interactive Map Guide. Geotourism partners are encouraged to continue nominating new sites and businesses in your community to the site. The more points we have on the Map Guide for your destination, the greater the localized experience will be for visitors passing through your region.

MT History Conference

48th Annual Montana History Conference

After a year of isolation and social distancing, the Montana Historical Society is excited to gather with our friends in Butte on Sept. 23-25 for “A Blast from the Past! Mining Montana History.” Now in its 48th year, the Montana History Conference is an annual gathering of history enthusiasts from across the state and the nation. The conference begins on Thursday with workshops ranging from re-registering you livestock brand to tips for getting your historical books and articles published. Thursday also offers an educators’ workshop and the ever-popular, daylong Made in Montana Tour.

Thursday evening finds us in historic Uptown sampling “A Taste of Butte” in a progressive reception featuring the Elks Club, Headframe Distillery, and 51 Below Speakeasy. Afterward, the adventurous can join Ellen Baumler for tales of historical otherworldly encounters followed by a visit to some of Butte’s most haunted places.

On Friday and Saturday, conference sessions will feature a wide array of speakers and topics including scandals at the State Highway Commission and the State Normal College in Dillon, to the Great Explosion of 1895 and tales of Butte’s infamous “Galloping Gallows. Register for the conference here.

Best Marketing Practices

Meeting Planner Virtual FAM Events

Glacier Country Tourism, in partnership with Discover Kalispell and Destination Missoula, recently hosted two virtual meeting planner FAMs. The events highlighted unique meeting spaces in the respective locations, as well as unique activities and restaurants appropriate for showcasing to meeting planners.

The Missoula event had 54 planners zooming in from states across the U.S., including Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, New York and even a planner from Denmark.

The Kalispell event had 45 planners with attendees hailing from Oregon, Washington, California, North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey domestically and Canada, Mexico and Italy internationally.

Recordings of the FAMs are available by request. For the Missoula event, click here. For the Kalispell event, click here

For more information, contact Debbie Picard at

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

MontanaMontana Tourism Industry Prepares for Influx of Visitors—Tourism industry experts in western Montana expect a banner year for visitors. Just in Missoula, occupancy hit 83.1% the first week of June, up from 78.1% the same week in 2019. Bozeman’s Visitors and Convention Bureau says on average, they’re back to 2019 occupancy numbers or better, and that was a record year there.

“Montana through this pandemic, strangely enough, has gotten discovered. People want to be here, they want to enjoy the things that we enjoy,” said Barb Neilan, the executive director of Destination Missoula. While tourism industry workers are thrilled to see a rebound after COVID-19 shut down a bulk of travel, it comes with challenges.

“I do think that everybody's going to have a really good year. It's a double-edged sword year,” Neilan explained. “Everybody is thrilled to death to see tons of visitors, but at the same time we're dealing -- especially in the service industry like everybody else is -- with a real shortage of workers.” Neilan says that means some hotels have had to take rooms completely offline because they don’t have the staff to turn them. Read more from NBC Montana here.

BigforkSummer Road Trip Inspiration: Top 5 Lake Towns in the West—Splashy waves, sails in the distance and a charming small town tucked on the shoreline? If that sounds like your idea of a heavenly vacation destination, the editors at Travel + Leisure would likely agree. They just named the 15 best lake towns in the U.S. Their criteria included clear lakes, of course, vibrant town life and plenty of things to do, not only stand-up paddle boarding but great restaurants, cozy inns or vacation rentals, shopping and land-based activities, too. Read more from The Mercury News here

ButteIt's official: Butte's Tourism District Gets a 10-Year Renewal—The Butte Civic Center has been cashing in on the county’s Tourism Business Improvement District for several years now, bringing sports tournaments and visitors to the Mining City with their pocketbooks in tow.

The district has steered $227,000 to the Civic Center over the past decade, allowing Center Director Bill Melvin to bid for tournaments two years out with bigger cash incentives to land them.

He says a University of Montana survey conducted a few years ago showed that each overnight visitor to Butte spends an average of $85 a day here on rooms, restaurants and other expenses. Some tournaments bring in as many as 16 teams.

“So when you think about that, it’s not only the players, it’s the coaches, the cheerleaders, the bands and all the associated people that come with them,” Melvin said. “And then you get the spectators. It’s a huge boon for the economy.”

The tourism district, or TBID, has spent $1.6 million on tournaments, festivals, marketing and other efforts over the past 10 years but was to sunset this month. Last week, Butte-Silver Bow commissioners capped off a renewal process that gives it another decade of life. Read more from the Montana Standard here

Missoula and BillingsTwo Montana Towns Among Best Run in the Country—The two largest cities in Montana – Billings and Missoula – scored well in a new study by WalletHub that ranks the best and worst run cities in the country. Both finished in the top 20, with Missoula ranking No. 12 and Billings No. 17.

In determining its rankings, WalletHub looked at 150 of the most populous cities in the country across six categories: financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution.

They then evaluated those areas using 38 metrics to calculate an overall “Quality of City Services” score based on each city’s weighted score across all metrics. The “Quality of City Services” was then divided by each city’s “Total Budget per Capita” to construct a “Score per Dollar Spent” to determine the final rank. Read more from Yahoo! News here.  To read the full study from WalletHub, click here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of June 28

Americans are feeling the pangs of the travel industry’s labor shortages with 43.4% of recent overnight travelers agreeing that it seemed as though travel industry businesses were having trouble providing adequate service to travelers. But despite unsatisfactory travel experiences, some Americans are still feeling more enthusiastic about travel.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Optimism about the virus’ course in America declines: Now, 16.2% expect the coronavirus situation to get worse or much worse in this country in the next month (up from 10.9%). This may also be causing a downturn in their openness to travel inspiration (now 70.9% from 73.1% last week) and confidence in their ability to travel safely in this environment (47.8% from 52.2%).
  • Concerns about the safety of others and ourselves as well as worries about COVID-19 variants are the most important considerations that keep Americans from traveling more right now: In fact, over 40% of travelers say these three aspects are important or extremely important considerations that keep them from taking more trips.
  • Nevertheless, summer travel plans hold strong: Over 77% of Americans plan to travel for leisure in the next 3 months—averaging 1.9 trips in this timeframe. 90% of these summer travelers expect to take at least one overnight trip. For these overnight trips, the most likely accommodation types will be the private home of a friend/relative (34.6%), 3-4 star hotels (32.7%) and budget hotels/motels (18.5%).
  • Despite unsatisfactory travel experiences in recent months, some Americans are feeling more enthusiastic about travel: A look back at the past 3 months shows that 44.6% of Americans have taken a overnight trip. Nearly 70% of these travelers participated in at least one leisure activity with the most “close to normal” experience being dining in restaurants (53.2% rating it as very normal or mostly normal and 60.3% were satisfied or very satisfied with their restaurant experience). In contrast, well below half of these travelers felt their experience in hotels, at events, in attractions, onboard commercial airlines and in airport businesses were normal or satisfactory. Still, though 28.2% of travelers said their most recent travel experience has made them more enthusiastic to travel and 22.9% say their experiences have made them sympathetic to the travel industry.
  • Americans are feeling the pangs of the travel industry’s labor shortages: 43.4% of recent overnight travelers agree that on their most recent trip it seemed as though travel industry businesses were having trouble providing adequate service to travelers. This has impacted future travel for some Americans, with 17.3% saying their recent travel experiences have led them to do more research, 14.9% will not plan as much travel and 11.8% say they have changed the destination or attraction for an upcoming trip.
  • Travel, tourism and recreation are among the top industries Americans are most interested in working in: Presented with a list of 15 different industries and asked to assume a job opportunity matched their skills and experience, 12.9% of all Americans surveyed said they would be interested in working in the travel, tourism and recreation industry. The same percentage selected arts and entertainment (12.9%), while 11.7% selected information technology.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Funding Resources

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

USDA is making available up to $3 million in cooperative agreements under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) for eligible entities to help them provide planning support, technical assistance and training to foster placemaking activities in rural communities. Qualified entities can use the funds to help rural communities create plans to enhance capacity for broadband access; preserve cultural and historic structures; and support the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces. For more information, click here

Other Events/Dates 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: