Friday Flash 8/27/21

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners

Wildland Fire Information for Travelers

The Montana Department of Commerce provides 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. 

Recreate Responsibly & Fire Awareness Toolkits 

The Montana Office of Tourism is committed to keeping Montana’s outdoor spaces, communities, residents, and visitors safe. As part of this initiative, the Montana Office of Tourism has developed toolkits with resources to help you educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices when it comes to wildland fires and safety.  

The Recreate Responsibly and Fire Safety & Awareness toolkits contain 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 for responsible recreation and fire safety to visitors traveling throughout Montana. You can download toolkits by clicking here

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

Tourism Grant Program

Tourism Grant Application Cycle Closes September 15! 

The application cycle of the Tourism Grant Program is now open. 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.

The 2022 application closes 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. 

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 Win Awards at the Montana Beverage Show

Montana's Entrepreneurial Spirit Shines at Beverage Trade Show—While the intent of the inaugural Montana Beverage Show held in Helena on Monday was to showcase the numerous home-grown beverages brewed, distilled and roasted around the state, it was Montanans' entrepreneurial spirit that was really on display.

From a former medical doctor turned cidermaker to a Missoula co-op of kombucha brewers, nearly 30 Montana beverage producers attended the trade show.

"Montana has high-quality ag products, some of the best in the world, that people can craft into high-quality products," said Chelsi Bay, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Agriculture, which hosted the event. "I think Montanans' entrepreneurial spirit really shined through today."

Sara Harmon and her husband spent a few years in the Seattle area where they gained an appreciation for coffee before the couple relocated back to the family farm in Bainville. Since 2018, the couple has roasted and sold coffee under the quaint moniker of Wild Calf Coffee. Harmon said it took a village to raise their business baby. "You quickly find the people who are entrepreneurial in your community," she said. "It was great to bring in all the local people to help."

Harmon said Wild Calf Coffee's barnyard roasting operation hopes to expand its distribution in the coming weeks. By mid-September, coffee aficionados will be able to purchase the beans in Murdoch's stores around Montana.

Gov. Greg Gianforte attended the event -- hosted at the Delta Hotels Helena Colonial -- talked with the vendors, and picked governor's choice award winners.

Harmon's Wild Calf Coffee won best handcrafted beverage. Hamilton's Westslope Distillery won best spirit. Wolf Point's Missouri Breaks Brewing won best craft beer. Willow Mountain Winery of Corvallis won best wine. Big Mountain Ciderworks of Kalispell won best cider.

"This is an example of value-added agricultural products made right here in Montana," Gianforte said. "It's the best agriculture community in the world." Read more from the Helena IR here


Montana Beef Directory Connects Local Producers and Consumers

The Montana Beef Directory, a resource compiling all producers selling beef directly to consumers, has been made available by the Montana Beef Council.

Producers selling beef directly will have the opportunity to submit their ranch name and information into the system. Once in the system, the information will automatically populate on an interactive map. Consumers will be able to access this resource and find beef that is nearby.

“Montana Beef Council receives requests from consumers and foodservice operators looking for beef and this directory will provide a simple website with a comprehensive list of beef offerings across Montana,” said Chaley Harney, Montana Beef Council executive director. “Our regular interaction with consumers will help us promote this resource on behalf of Montana producers and ultimately get more beef on more plates,” said Harney.

Producers are encouraged to visit the website and insert their information as soon as possible to begin populating the directory for consumers to see all the options in their area. Read more from Tri-State Livestock News here.

Heritage/Cultural News


Bannack, 'Heart of the Wild West' Spurred Birth of Montana Territory

Between Jackson and Dillon, you'll find the ghost town that paved the way for the creation of the Montana Territory. When gold was discovered at Grasshopper Creek in 1862, fortune seekers arrived from all over the world-and Bannack was born. Most know Bannack for a notorious sheriff, road agent robberies and Vigilante justice. But Bannack has many sides.

Today, Bannack is Bannack State Park, where visitors come to see up-close an integral chapter in Montana history. NBC Montana travelled to Bannack where we met Bannack State Park Ranger John Phillips, who began by giving us a tour of downtown. Pointing out landmarks along the way he said, "there's still about 60 structures on Main Street." Almost all of the buildings are wood-framed or log. They're maintained as they would have looked 150-years ago. Bannack looks and feels untouched by time. Read more from NBC Montana here

Outdoor Recreation

Montana State Parks See Increase in Visitation for the First Six Months of 2021

Montana State Parks recorded more than 1.5 million visitors from January through June of this year. Compared with same time period last year, visitation increased by 11.1% and increased 44.1% in comparison with 2019 visitation. Of the 45 state parks that were seasonally open during the first half of the year, 27 experienced an increase in estimated visitation compared with last year.

“For the second straight year, the state parks system has experienced significant visitation growth for the first half of the year,” said Beth Shumate, state parks division administrator. “Our staff, volunteers, and partner organizations have done an excellent job of providing a safe and inviting place for people to experience some of the most outstanding historical, cultural, and recreational opportunities that Montana has to offer.”

The top five most visited parks between January and June of this year were:

  • Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls – 212,329 visits (up 6.3% from last year?)
  • Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena – 152,515 visits (up 91.5%)
  • Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 147,003 visits (down 8.4%)
  • Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts – 124,834 visits (down 16.6%)
  • Lake Elmo State Park, Billings – 106,754 visits (down 11.6%)

State park snapshots from around the state:

  • Northwest: Flathead Lake State Park (all units) had the highest visitation in the region at 147,003, visits, a decrease of 8.4%
  • West: Milltown State Park had the highest visitation in the region with 48,361 visits, an increase of 88.1%
  • Southwest: Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park had the highest visitation in the region with 57,177 visits, an increase of 262.8%.
  • North-central: Giant Springs had the highest visitation in the region as well as the state at 212,329 visits; an increase of 6.3%
  • South-central: Cooney Reservoir State Park had the highest visitation in the region with 124,834 visits, a decrease of 16.6%.
  • Southeast: Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in the region with 72,650 visits, an increase of 24.3%.

For more information on state park visitation call Kyan Bishop at 406.444.3364. To view the complete report click here or visit FWP.MT.GOV/aboutfwp/about-state-parks and click on “Montana State Parks Visitation Reports.”

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


Madison RiverMontana’s Madison River is a Fly-Fishing Mecca—The mere mention of Montana’s Madison River is enough to make fly-fishermen salivate, what with its high concentration of trout, scenic beauty and prolific wildlife, it’s hard to match. Indeed, it’s a mecca for fly-fishermen.

The Madison River, which starts in Yellowstone National Park and eventually hooks up with the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers to form the headwaters of the Missouri River, is a blue-ribbon trout fishery that has been called “a perfect trout stream.” The town of Ennis, Montana, located near the river, is known as Trout Town, USA. Fly shops abound in the region. One can easily tell it’s trout country, and it’s certainly a special destination. Read more from USA Today here


Destination Analysts Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of August 23

Under the shadow of the Delta variant, the majority of American travelers support both indoor masking requirements, as well as vaccine mandates for certain indoor activities right now. And they remained committed to travel, with 80% reporting trip plans.

Key Findings

  • Even with high vaccination rates among travelers, the Delta variant situation is casting a heavy shadow. Despite 72.2% of American travelers reporting they have received a COVID vaccine, 63.2% have a high degree of concern about personally contracting the coronavirus right now. In fact, the proportion who are unconcerned about personally contracting COVID has decreased by half since May, dropping from 40.0% to 21.4%. A sense of pre-pandemic normalcy has also been cut nearly in half, falling to 22.3% from 42.7% six weeks ago. About 60% of American travelers say what’s happening with the Delta variant is making them less interested in travel right now (up from 54.3% the week of August 9th). Meanwhile, an increasing number of travelers are saying they have postponed an upcoming trip specifically due to the Delta variant (32.7% up from 27.0% two weeks ago); those who say they have cancelled a trip due to Delta variant concerns remains at 27.5%.
  • Given what’s happening with the pandemic, the majority of American travelers support both indoor masking requirements right now, as well as vaccine mandates for certain indoor activities. This week, 73.6% of American travelers support the reinstatement of indoor masking policies, growing nearly 9 percentage points since August 9th. Using San Francisco’s current COVID-19 vaccine mandate for entry to bars, restaurants and gyms as an example, 61.2% of American travelers say they support this (20.6% oppose) and 47.4% even agree it makes the city a more attractive place to visit (25.1% disagree). About 60% of American travelers say they would support such indoor COVID-19 vaccine mandates in their own community, (17.8% would be neutral and 22.5% would be opposed).
  • A small gain in optimism about where the pandemic is headed in the next months hints at slight rebounds in travel sentiment. With an increase in the number of unvaccinated travelers who say they will get vaccinated this year (32.1% up from 24.7% August 9th) and a record 58.8% of traveling parents of school-age children saying they will have their kids inoculated from COVID-19, the proportion of American travelers who feel the pandemic situation will improve in the next month has gained 6 percentage points in the last two weeks to 26.3%. Those in a ready-to-travel mindset improved back to 76.4% from 71.6% and excitement for incremental near-term travel returned to 67.0%, up from 60.7% two weeks ago. Firm confidence in travel’s present safety improved to 42.8% from 36.6%. American travelers open to travel inspiration also returned to 58.6% from 52.1% two weeks ago. Unfortunately, sentiment towards convention-related and international travel did not make similar rebounds.
  • Perceptions of high travel prices are butting up against growing financial anxiety. American travelers with concerns about their personal finances continued to rise, hitting 55.0% from 47.7% 2 weeks ago, and nearly 45% report they are feeling a lot of financial stress lately. This financial related anxiety likely contributes to almost 60% agreeing that travel prices are too high right now —most particularly hotel rates and gasoline. Over 43% now say high travel prices have deterred them from traveling in the past month, up
    from 34.6% in just two weeks. On a positive note, despite these affordability perceptions, 54.7% say leisure travel will remain a high priority in their budgets and 41.4% agree that the present is a good time to spend on travel.
  • 80% of American travelers still have trip plans. In fact, 24.4% report having travel planned in September, and 23.4% report having travel planned in October. Both November and December are currently above 20%, as well. Three-quarters of American travelers did some travel dreaming or planning in the last week alone. Using ski as an example about travelers’ confidence in the future, nearly two-thirds of traveling skiers who have a regular ski destination they travel to say they are likely to visit that destination this season.
  • Polarization present but not overwhelming. Not surprisingly, travelers would like to know that they are welcomed at their destinations—70.2% say that they are unlikely to travel to a destination that has a reputation of being unwelcoming. Interestingly, this week the number of American travelers who said they can think of a U.S. destination where they would expect to be an unwelcoming atmosphere jumped over 7 percentage points to 20.3%. When asked in an open-ended question which domestic destinations come to mind as possibly being unwelcoming, New York, California, Texas and Florida topped the list. Nevertheless—and despite these destinations’ pandemic-related associations —Florida, New York, California, Las Vegas and Texas remain dominant in where Americans name as the places they most want to travel to in the next year.

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Other News

National Parks are Booming

  • Key Points
    • National park tourism has surged over the past several years. Some popular parks like Yellowstone are seeing record numbers in 2021.
    • Acadia, Yosemite, Glacier, Haleakalā and Rocky Mountain National Parks, as well as the Muir Woods National Monument, have adopted advance-reservation systems to limit congestion. More parks will likely follow.
    • The measures help protect parks and visitor experience, but may frustrate would-be travelers who can’t get one of the limited reservations.

Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park is among the country’s premier spots to view a sunrise. For half the year, visitors to the 1,530-foot peak — the tallest within 25 miles of the entire U.S. East Coast — are the first in the country to see daylight, watching as the sun’s rays gradually illuminate Frenchman Bay and its many islands in brilliant blues and purples. That is, if they can find parking.

Until recently, it wasn’t unusual to see 500 cars vie for 150 parking spaces, according to park superintendent Kevin Schneider. Park officials implemented a reservation system this year to cut congestion. Reservations cost $6 per vehicle and must be bought online in advance.

Elsewhere — Yosemite, Glacier, Haleakalā and Rocky Mountain National Parks, as well as the Muir Woods National Monument — are also using advance reservations to access the whole park or popular attractions. Zion National Park in Utah is weighing the same next year for its Angels Landing hike, which sometimes sees visitors wait hours to access the trailhead.

Other heavily trafficked parks will likely take similar measures in coming years if visitor trends continue, according to officials and travel experts. Travelers may have difficulty claiming one of the limited spots ahead of time, or are turned away if unaware of the requirement before arrival.

Eager to travel and get outdoors after months of confinement, Americans have traveled to some parks in record numbers this year. Vacationers may also still be wary of traveling to destinations outside U.S. borders, or may not be able to due to local restrictions.

July was Yellowstone’s busiest month in park history — monthly visitors had never exceeded 1 million to the first U.S. national park, which has the highest concentration of thermal features like geysers, hot springs, mudpots and steam vents in the world. Read more from CNBC here

Common Misconceptions Short-Term Rental Hosts Have About Regulations

Most short-term vacation rental (STRs) hosts are responsible operators. However, even responsible hosts can be mistaken when it comes to following local and state regulations

Education is the key to increased compliance with your STR regulations. Join Granicus Host Compliance and Julie Davies, short-term rental host accredited course provider, as we cover some of hosts’ most common misconceptions about regulations and safety requirements, and how to overcome them.

In this session, you’ll learn:

  • Key trends in the short-term rental market that governments need to know.
  • The most common misconceptions hosts have about being compliant with local and state regulations.
  • How education is key to high short-term rental compliance.
  • Communication strategies to gain short-term rental hosts’ compliance.

You can watch the full webinar here

Funding Resources

CARES Act Funding Available

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the State of Montana, Department of Commerce was awarded Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG CARES) to support communities as they respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible applicants include towns, cities, and counties. Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula – known as entitlement areas – are eligible applicants for CDBG CARES, but CDBG CARES regulations limit the amount of CDBG CARES the State of Montana can award to these entitlement areas. Other entities such as tribes, non-profits, public housing authorities, etc., although not eligible directly, may apply in partnership with an eligible applicant.

Applications due by September 15. Learn more and apply today at COMDEV.MT.GOV.

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:

August 23–September 9, 2021FWP Director, Deputy Director Hosting Open Houses Around the State—Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks director, deputy director and members of their staff will be visiting regional offices during a tour of the state in August and September. Director Hank Worsech and Deputy Director Dustin Temple invite the public to join them at regional FWP offices for open houses.

All meetings will run from 5:00–8:00 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

  • August 31: Region 4 Headquarters in Great Falls, 4600 Giant Springs Road
  • September 1: Region 6 Headquarters in Glasgow, 1 Airport Road
  • September 7: Region 3 Headquarters in Bozeman, 1400 South 19th
  • September 8: Region 5 Headquarters in Billings, 2300 Lake Elmo Drive
  • September 9: Region 7 Headquarters in Miles City, 352 I-94 Business Loop

“It’s been a busy year and we know people have a lot of things they’re interested in discussing,” said Worsech. “This is a great opportunity for us to hear directly from the public on topics they’re passionate about.” FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to those with special needs. To request arrangements, call FWP at 406.444.3186.

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 your 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.

September 27-30, 2021The 2021 NAISMA (North American Invasive Species Management Association) Annual Conference (In-person and virtual options to attend)—The NAISMA Board of Directors, Staff, and Planning Committee are excited for this year’s opportunity to bring a high quality agenda, professional development, and networking opportunities to invasive species managers in North America and beyond.

This year’s conference is a great deal for anyone who does invasive species management, research, policy, or outreach and education who are looking for an affordable professional development opportunity. For more information or to register, click here

October 17–20, 2021MLHA (Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association) Fall Tourism Conference and Trade Show (Whitefish)—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. For more information or to register, click here