Friday Flash 7/30/21

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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 is updated as fire activity impacts popular destination areas and includes information on wildland fires, fire restrictions, smoke and air quality across Montana. 

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This bi-monthly call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 16 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. 
    • September 22, 2021
    • November 24, 2021
  • October 4-5, 2021—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • October 20, 2021—Region/CVB 1st Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due 
  • January 20, 2022—Region/CVB 2nd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • February 7-8, 2022—TAC Meeting (Location TBD)
  • April 20, 2022—Region/CVB 3rd Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due
  • July 20 , 2022—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY22 Financial Reports Due

Fire Safety & Awareness

NEW!!! Fire Safety & Awareness Information Toolkit

Montana's wildland fire season generally starts mid-summer and fires may impact travel and destination visitors. The Montana Office of Tourism has developed a toolkit of resources to help educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices when it comes to wildland fires and safety. Materials are included for both preventative education as well as materials that can be updated with specific information on local conditions. There are also templates for crisis communications.

The toolkit contains print and digital templates that may be customized to reflect a website for your organization, community, or business. We encourage you to use these pieces to spread the word and build awareness of these important fire safety messages. You can download the entire toolkit or individual pieces by clicking here

Fire Aware

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 in Two Days!

The application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program opens at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1 via Submittable, an online platform. Tourism grant funds are awarded through the annual application cycle to projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products in Montana and have the potential to increase non-resident visitation and expenditures.

A recorded webinar training and workshop is available on-demand via Zoom and provides a review of the program guidelines, timeline, updates to the fiscal year cycle, and an overview of the application.

The 2022 application cycle will close promptly at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15. For more information about the Tourism Grant Program, and to download workshop materials, 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. 

Nominations for 2021 Retailer of the Year Due by August 4!
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. To submit a nomination, click here

Wholesale Buyer Registration 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 can pre-register through Friday, September 3, 2021, but can also register on-site the day of the show. To learn more or to register as a wholesale buyer, click here

MIM Members in the News

Two of our Taste our Place members; The Nova Cafe and Sweet Peaks Ice Cream, are are in the list of the "10 Best Restaurants To Try In Bozeman" from Travel Awaits. Montana is known for its majestic mountains, the country’s first national park, and everything huckleberry. Under its big skies, herds of cattle graze and golden stalks of wheat rustle in the gentle breeze. Whether you crave fluffy organic pancakes, a delicious steak, or a scoop of huckleberry ice cream, these are the best restaurants to try in Bozeman. Read more from Travel Awaits here

Taste our Place

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.   

Outdoor Recreation

What are 'Hoot Owl' Fishing Restrictions and Why They Matter for Montana Rivers

One of the most cherished resources our state has to offer is a healthy fish population. At this time of the year with rising temperatures, the best way to keep that population healthy is to change the times that we go fishing.

To help keep the fish healthy, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has temporarily enacted in some areas what are known as "hoot owl" fishing restrictions. “We're not saying you can’t fish, we’re just asking that you fish in the morning up until about two o'clock in the afternoon,” explained Adam Strainer, an FWP fisheries biologist.

One factor in deciding to implement restrictions is a maximum daily water temp of at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. “Monitoring water temps, fisheries, population trends as well as angling trends," said Strainer. "The amount of pressure on the systems are having on them this time of year, and using all those variables to figure out what is best for each water body, each drainage through the state of Montana.”

When conditions are stressful for fish, disease and deaths can run rampant among the populations - and that could have long-running implications. Strainer said it’s good to see that these restrictions are being respected by the angling population. Read more from KTVH here

American Trails Presents Advancing Trails Webinar Series

New Webinars Added! 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:

If you missed a previous webinar, they are available for FREE and immediate download here

Best Marketing Practices

From Destination Marketing to Destination Stewardship

Rural America saw an influx of visitors in 2020 as people looked to escape the pandemic in search of wide-open spaces, and that trend has extended into 2021 while international travel is limited and people are still apprehensive to go to destinations like Disney World or Las Vegas.

Last April, local tourism organizations started to pivot their messaging and Glacier Country attempted a “Love Now, Explore Later” campaign during the lockdown to keep rural communities safe during the pandemic. “COVID really shifted us,” Friede said. “It made us do a hard pivot.”

To address the inevitable influx, Glacier Country collaborated with other tourism bureaus, including Explore Whitefish and Discover Kalispell, to focus on destination stewardship while partnering with the national Recreate Responsibly initiative, which encourages messages like leave no trace, know before you go and wildfire safety.

“We are trying to manage and help educate people,” Friede said. “It’s not that we don’t want them to come, but we want them to come and be good stewards of the community.”

At Explore Whitefish, Executive Director Dylan Boyle says the bureau has also shifted to focus on stewardship rather than promotional marketing, which it hasn’t done during the summer months since 2010. This summer, Explore Whitefish launched the “Be a Friend of the Fish” sustainable tourism campaign.

This new campaign invites visitors on the ground to share Whitefish’s community values, asks visitors to slow down, be respectful, recreate responsibly and be a steward of the land. “We’ve definitely shifted into that sustainable tourism role and we’re really thinking about where we have been and where we are now,” Boyle said. “Our goal now is aiming to balance the economic vitality of tourism with values.”

Discover Kalispell launched a “Safety First Adventure Second” campaign during the pandemic, and Executive Director Diane Medler says the organization is trying to set up visitors for success by directing tourists through appropriate avenues like guiding services. “If you do it with a guide, that makes it a lot easier to recreate responsibly,” Medler said.

Medler has also been encouraging visitors to practice patience during the peak summer months, and Discover Kalispell officials have spent much of their time explaining Glacier’s ticketed entry system to frustrated visitors. They also receive frequent calls from people searching for hotel rooms. Read the full story from the Flathead Beacon here

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

HelenaHelena Airport Secures Federal Grant to Attract Service to Phoenix—The Helena Regional Airport secured a little more than a million dollars in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help attract new service to Arizona.

As part of the federal department's Small Community Air Service Development Program, the about $1 million will be packaged with local fundraising dollars to create an incentive package intended to woo an airline into starting a route from Helena's airport to Phoenix.

According to Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper, some of the money will be spent on marketing of the new route. Other dollars from the new incentive package could be spent on minor terminal upgrades, most likely at the ticketing windows. The bulk of the money will be kept as revenue guarantees for the first three years. Read more from the Helena IR here

Other News

Small Businesses Lifted by Return of Summer Tourists

Small businesses in the U.S. that depend on tourism and vacationers say business is bouncing back, as Americans rebook postponed trips and spend freely on food, entertainment and souvenirs.

U.S. states and cities have loosened many of their restrictions on crowd size and mask-wearing, a positive sign for businesses that struggled for more than a year when theme parks and other tourist attractions were shuttered.

Still, the return to a pre-pandemic "normal" is a way off for most. There are few business travelers and international tourists. Many businesses are grappling with staff shortages and other challenges. And if a surge of the more contagious delta variant or another variant of the coronavirus forces states to reenact restrictions or lockdowns, the progress might be lost.

The U.S. Travel Association, a travel industry trade group, predicts domestic travel spending will total $787 billion in 2021. That's up 22% from 2020 but still down 20% from 2019 levels. The association predicts travel spending won't completely rebound above 2019 levels until 2024.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jenny Kimball, co-owner of the independent hotel La Fonda on the Plaza, with 180 rooms, said her hotel is sold out through the summer and booked about 90% on average for the fall. That's a welcome change from the two or three guests the hotel had at one point as it stayed open during the height of the pandemic. "It's crazy busy, it's wonderful, everyone is happy," she said.

The clientele is different than prior to the pandemic: There are more families and people working remotely, and they're staying longer, an average or four or five nights compared to two or three. "Families want to come and stay longer and really vacation and see more of the city and more of the museums," Kimball says. Read more from NBC Montana here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of July 26

Optimism about the coronavirus situation in the U.S. has plummeted and regression in safety perceptions has caused Americans to feel we’ve lost ground on the progress made towards a return to normalcy. The Delta variant is also disrupting Americans’ trip plans with 25.4% having postponed an upcoming trip and 18.9% cancelling a trip specifically due to the Delta variant.

Key Findings to Know: 

  • Optimism about the coronavirus situation in the U.S. has plummeted. American travelers’ expectation that the coronavirus situation will get worse in the next month has made a significant jump from 19.6% the week of July 12th to 43.0% this week—surpassing expectations that the situation will get better (32.0%) for the first time since the week of February 1st. This worsening expectation has impacted Americans’ excitement to travel right now (68.2%, down from 72.6%), personal health concerns (56.6%, up from 49.5%) and their confidence in the ability to travel safely right now (49.3%, down from 52.9%).
  • Negative associations with travel are on the rise again. When asked to give ONE WORD that best describes how they feel about travel right now, Americans’ top response was “exciting” the week of July 12th. Now, they mostly feel “good” about travel; however, the number of people citing “unsafe,” “nervous,” “worried,” or “anxious” is growing.
  • Regression in safety perceptions has caused Americans to feel we’ve lost ground on the progress made towards a return to normalcy. Due to recent media coverage of the COVID-19 situation, 44.8% are now doubting that it is safe to go out and about and 45.0% doubt that it is safe to travel now. These decreased feelings of safety have led to a drop in perceptions of normalcy. This week, less than one-in-three (32.3%) American travelers feel that the U.S. is close to “normal” in terms of resuming leisure activities—down 10 percentage points from 42.7% the week of July 12th.
  • The Delta variant is disrupting Americans’ travel plans. Recent news about increasing Delta variant cases have made half of American travelers less interested in traveling right now (53.6%, up from 51.0% the week of July 12th). In fact, a quarter (25.4%) have postponed an upcoming trip and 18.9% have cancelled a trip specifically due to the Delta variant. In addition, overnight trips appear to be in decline—this week 43.8% of Americans said they took at least one such trip in the past month which is down from 49.6% who said the same the week of July 12th.
  • On a brighter note, big cities and metropolitan areas continue to make gains in recovery. Among those who took an overnight trip in the past month, cities/metro areas were the top destination type visited (39.3%), followed by small towns (30.9%) and beach destinations (26.9%). Due to recent COVID outbreaks, some cities have reinstated indoor mask requirements and while 15.7% of American travelers are opposed, 68.2% support this requirement.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here

Funding Resources

FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Act Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Notice of Funding Opportunity

Through the Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program, EDA is focused on accelerating the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. $750 million of EDA’s American Rescue Plan funds are allocated to support the following efforts:

  • State Tourism Grants: $510 million in non-competitive awards to help states quickly invest in marketing, infrastructure, workforce and other projects to rejuvenate safe leisure, business and international travel. Eligible applicants for EDA’s Statewide Planning Grants include Governors, the Mayor of DC, and other applicable Territory leaders or their designees. EDA will send these applicants a formal invitation to apply.
  • Competitive Grants: $240 million to help communities that have been hardest hit by challenges facing the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors to invest in infrastructure, workforce or other projects to support the recovery of the industry and economic resilience of the community in the future. Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants program include a(n):
    • District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District
    • Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes
    • State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of a State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions
    • Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
    • Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State
    • Individuals or for-profit entities are not eligible

Email your questions about the American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program to Visit EDA.GOV/Contact to find contact information for your Economic Development Representative. For more information click here

FY22 Montana Indian Equity Fund Small Business Grant 

The Office of Indian Country Economic Development is accepting applications to the fiscal year 2022 Indian Equity Fund (IEF) Small Business Grant program. Applications will be accepted through August 31, 2021.

Grant funds 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. 

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

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.

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

September 23-25, 202148th Annual Montana History Conference (Butte)—After a year of isolation and social distancing, the Montana Historical Society is excited to gather with our friends for “A Blast from the Past! Mining Montana History.” 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. For full program and registration information, click here.

October 17-20, 2021MLHA (Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association) Fall Tourism Conference and Trade Show (Whitefish)—Be sure to mark your calendar for the MLHA Fall Conference to be held in Whitefish at both the Grouse Mountain Lodge and The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

The event will kick off with a networking social Sunday, October 17, at 8:00 pm and conclude on Wednesday, October 20 at 10:30 am after the annual membership meeting. The Conference committee has an exciting program planned featuring dynamic speakers addressing relevant topics, a Trade Show showcasing our Allied Partners and a Tuesday evening Awards Banquet. Registration details will be released in late August.