Latest News

Travel and tourism impacts many industries across Montana. This page will include information from partners in many sectors who either directly or indirectly have news related to travel, tourism and recreation.


2017 Montana Legislative Session Begins

This week the 65th Montana Legislative Session began with the dedicated elected officials from across Montana trekking to Helena to execute the duties of the legislative branch of our government which is responsible for making the laws needed to maintain public order and ensure the basic security of the state. The Montana Legislature meets every two years and only for four months which makes the job of our elected officials extremely challenging. We want to thank them in advance for their time and dedication to this task.

As of the first week, there were almost 2400 bill drafts requested. The biggest challenges of this session can often overshadow the issues related to recreation, travel and tourism but we need to remember that tourism is Montana’s second largest industry and it brings $3.4 billion into the state from nonresident travelers. Tourism does not simply happen. People do not just “know” about Montana and “want” to vacation here. They do this because the travel and tourism partners (both public and private) across the state work together to promote this incredible part of the American West as a destination. This is done largely using the Lodging Facility Use Tax (a.k.a. 4% bed tax).

History has taught us that while travel is the first to experience the negative impacts of economic fluctuations, it is also the first to see recovery and remain stable as long as strong promotion efforts continue to support it. Ask yourself what challenges would exist if visitors to your community were to significantly decrease. Fewer people buying fuel which is heavily taxed. Fewer people stopping to eat and drink in the local restaurants, pubs and breweries. Fewer people shopping in the main street stores. Fewer people buying groceries, guide services, shopping at the farmers markets, fishing licenses, etc. Overall, fewer vacationers’ means fewer people which means fewer dollars spent in our communities. Less new money in the community means less revenue and fewer jobs.

Travel, tourism and recreation are critical to the economic well-being of Montana. Tourism Matters to Montana strives to help advocate for strong programs and legislation that not only maintains the strength of the tourism industry but helps it grow in healthy and sustainable ways.


SB 264 – Best Place First Update

Good news!

This bill supported by Tourism Matters to Montana and key tourism partners has been modified and passed out of the Senate Finance and Claims Committee. The committee took action yesterday to reduce the level of redirected funding and in short it now allocates approximately $1.7 million of the 3% lodging tax and 4% rental car tax currently going to the State General Fund to seven tourism partners. Those receiving funding in the revised bill are: State Parks, CVBs/Regions, Historical Society, State owned historic properties, Arts Council, Heritage Commission and non-state owned heritage properties. At this time we are asking tourism partners to contact members of the Senate to ask for their support of this measure for some of the following reasons, plus your own.

  • SB 264 will improve special places for all Montanans and increase visitor spending in local communities.
  • SB 264 recognizes the importance of tourism to Montana’s economy and it is a plan to strengthen and reinvest in the future for the benefit of all Montanans.
  • SB 264 will have an enduring impact on the state’s cultural and historical places cherished by Montanans, but it will also broaden Montana’s tourism product with high-quality opportunities for visitors.

List of all 50 State Senators

SB-264 Best Place First handout (9APR15)

Send them a message to support SB 264 using this on-line message form OR call and leave a message at 406-444-4800.


SB 264 – Best Place First

Senate Bill 264, “Best Place First” is sponsored by Senator Bob Keenan (R) SD 5 from Bigfork. SB 264 is an industry-led effort to grow Montana’s economy and preserve our state’s historical and cultural heritage.

The “Best Place First” bill would appropriate 60% of annual revenues from the Accommodations Sales & Use Tax and the Rental Vehicle Sales & Use Tax to be shared between tourism promotion and infrastructure investment programs across Montana.

30% of the appropriated funds would be allocated for the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the tourism industry’s partners and their infrastructure.

  • State Parks (9.72%)
  • Historical Society (7.2%)
  • Heritage Commission (3.48%)
  • Arts Council (7.08%)
  • Heritage/Historic Properties (2.52%)

The other 30% would go to strengthen the marketing efforts of the Office of Tourism, Montana’s six travel regions and 15 visitors bureaus statewide which face a significant increase in competition and marketing costs as the national economy improves.

  • Montana Office of Tourism (22.5%)
  • Regions and Convention and Visitor Bureaus (7.5%)

The remaining 40% would continue to go directly to the state general fund as it has done since 2003.

With proven returns on investment in state tax revenue of greater than 2-to-1 for every marketing dollar spent, this bill’s distribution formula is designed to be revenue neutral acting like a revolving line of credit.

This bill would make a meaningful annual investment in our state’s cherished places and the Montana brand with long-lasting benefits for Montana’s economy, our visitors’ experience and the quality of life for all Montanans.

Contact your legislator to support this effort to grow Montana’s economy and preserve our state’s historical and cultural heritage


SB 264 is formally endorsed by the following tourism partners:

  • Big Sky Chamber of Commerce
  • Billings Chamber of Commerce
  • Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Bozeman Tourism Business Improvement District
  • Butte Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Central Montana Tourism
  • Destination Missoula
  • Glacier Country Tourism
  • Helena Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Kalispell Tourism Business Improvement District
  • Miles City Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Miles City Tourism Business Improvement District
  • Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District
  • Missouri River Country
  • Southwest Montana
  • Visit Big Sky
  • Visit Billings
  • Visit Glendive
  • Visit Southeast Montana
  • West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
  • Yellowstone Country Montana

Montana State Parks Announces Strategic Plan

(Helena, MT) – Montana State Parks ( announced today that the Montana State Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, Charting a New Tomorrow is now available.

Charting a New Tomorrow is a ground-breaking, business-minded management approach that will maximize the Division’s available resources, develop partnerships and build public engagement to create a bright future for outdoor recreation across Montana.

“This plan will strengthen the state’s park system and recreation programs,” said Chas Van Genderen. “Montana State Parks will lead the way for parks and recreation throughout the state.”

The Montana State Parks & Recreation Board tasked the Division with creating the strategic plan to serve as a guiding framework for management of the park system and state-wide recreation programs through 2020. The plan addresses budgetary and staffing shortfalls which have historically challenged the park system while focusing on strategic partnerships and engaged constituents.

“We want to provide residents and their guests with the best experience possible.” said Van Genderen.

Implementation of the strategic plan is underway and will continue to be Montana State Park’s focus for the next few months. The first stage involves conducting a facility condition assessment and establishing operational and staffing standards based on peer analysis with surrounding state park systems. Once the analysis is complete, the Division will begin the process of reallocating resources to the most significant sites in order to meet standards and improve visitor experiences at those parks.

Charting a New Tomorrow is the result of a year long process that included contributions from the Parks Division, legislative members, agency partners, user groups and other stakeholders through surveys, community listening sessions, and public review. The plan was approved by the Parks Board at their December 17, 2014 meeting.

To view Charting a New Tomorrow visit:

For more information about Charting a New Tomorrow contact Maren Murphy at (406) 444-3364 or

Visit Montana State Parks ( and enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and more and discover some of the greatest natural and cultural treasures on earth.

Betsy Kirkeby
Interim Marketing & Communications Manager,
Montana State Parks
(406) 444-3343


Big Sky on the Big Screen Act Moves on!

Montana Film Community,

On Friday, January 23rd, House Bill 120 (the renewal of the Big Sky on the Big Screen Act) passed out of the House Taxation Committee and onward towards the House!

Representative Kathleen Williams of Bozeman championed the bill through committee and we saw all but three members of the committee support the bill. The committee did amend the bill to attach a sunset for 2023.

Many of you traveled to Helena and spoke to the committee or wrote in about the impact that film has in your life, on your business, and in your communities and that makes all the difference!

Now, it’s up to us to let the rest of the Montana House of Representatives how important film is. Follow the “Find Your Legislator” link off to the right and find out who in the House can help adovcate for our great film communities when the bill hits the floor.

Every email, phone call, or letter lets the Montana Legislature know just what this program means to Montana!

If you have any questions you can always call us (406.841.2876) or email us

Yours in Film,

MT Film Office Logo


Montana State Parks Announces Record High 2014 Annual Visitation

mt-st-parks(Helena, MT) – Montana State Parks ( announced today that in 2014, Montana’s 55 state parks experienced 2.255 million visits setting record high visitation for the second straight year. From January to December 2014, the statewide visitation numbers show a 3% increase over 2013.

Overall, the North Central Region (Great Falls area) saw the highest annual visitation in 2014 with 593,000 visits, and Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest visitation for the year of all state parks with more than 316,000 visits.

In addition to record visitation numbers, Montana State Parks also experienced increased participation in volunteerism. In 2014, volunteers dedicated almost 43,000 hours to state park operations and programs which is the equivalent of more than 20 full time employees (FTE). Montana State Parks’ volunteers provide much needed support to the Division’s limited paid staff.

“The growth in our visitation and volunteer support is very exciting,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator for Montana State Parks.  “Since 2002, annual park use has increased by a million visits. This trend has lead to greater demands for staffing and services in our parks. Our volunteers are vital to meeting those demands. We thank the public for their ongoing support, and look forward to continued growth for years to come.”

The Top 5 Parks for Annual Visitation: 

  1. Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls (316,483 visits)
  2. Lake Elmo State Park in Billings (163,265 visits)
  3. Cooney State Park in Roberts (160,070 visits)
  4. Spring Meadow Lake State Park in Helena (141,727 visits)
  5. Wayfarers State Park in Kalispell (133,473 visits)

For more information on 2014 Annual Visitation call Maren Murphy at (406) 444-3364.

Or visit and click on ‘Parks Planning & Reports.’

Visit Montana State Parks ( and enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and more and discover some of the greatest natural and cultural treasures on earth.

Download our new APP! Montana State Parks Outdoor Guide


A division of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Betsy Kirkeby
Interim Marketing & Communications Manager
Montana State Parks
(406) 444-3343


Help Keep Montana Filming!

Montana Film Community,

This past December 31st, Montana’s film tax incentive program expired!

Now, the 2015 Montana State Legislature has convened and will hear testimony on House Bill 120 to bring the program back to life.Representative Kathleen Williams of Bozeman is sponsoring the bill before the House Taxation Committee next Wednesday, January 14th at 9 am in Room 152 of the State Capitol Building.

Film incentives attract new production business to Montana, bringing jobs and economic benefit to small businesses and Montana locations. Now we need your helpto make sure the Montana Legislature knows what this program means to you!

Committee hearings on bills are open to the public, so you are welcome to attend the hearing and testify in person, BUT if you’re unable to make it and want to have your voice heard you may send testimony along to either of the following addresses:

Physical Mail:
Montana House of Representatives, Taxation Committee
Attn: Erica Siate, Committee Secretary
P.O. Box 201706
Helena, MT 59620-1706


Anyone submitting written testimony needs to provide their name, contact information, and affiliation (e.g. “John Smith,, The Best Products, LLC”) Also, absentee video or audio testimony is not permitted and testimony should be provided before the hearing as it’s admitted to the record during the normal hearing (i.e. hearing is on the 14th, testimony needs to be in handed before then).

If you have any questions you can always call us (406.841.2876) or email us

HB 120 Big Sky Big Screen Act Background FAQ

Yours in Film,

Montana Film Office


UM Researchers Measure 2014 as Strong Year for Montana Tourism

MISSOULA – This year was another strong year for tourism in Montana according to preliminary 2014 numbers gathered by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. Nearly 11 million nonresidents visited Montana and spent more than $3.9 billion in the Treasure State in 2014.

Nonresident visitation appears to be the same or slightly lower than 2013. While the number of individuals may have dropped slightly from 2013, the number of travel groups increased during the past year. Spending by nonresidents grew by 4 percent in the first quarter of the year, 20 percent in the second quarter and 9 percent in the third quarter.

“In total, nonresident travelers spent more than $3.9 billion in Montana,” UM ITTR Economic Analyst Kara Grau said, “the benefits of which ripple throughout the economy, supporting jobs and providing income, as well as contributing to taxes.”

Despite having slightly fewer people per visiting group than in 2013, and therefore lower individual visitation, many business owners benefitted from the increased group traffic during the past year. About 68 percent of all tourism-related business owners surveyed by ITRR this fall reported an increase in visitation or customers in 2014, and 31 percent of those said they saw a significant visitor increase of more than 10 percent over 2013. Only 10 percent reported seeing a decrease in customers. More than half (57 percent) of businesses responding to the ITRR survey expect to see their visitation increase in 2015.

ITRR Director Norma Nickerson said several other factors also indicate a good year for tourism.

“In 2014 hotel rooms sold were up 6 percent through November and skier visits showed a 6 percent increase over the 2012-13 season,” she said. “The national parks in Montana have experienced an 8 percent increase over 2013 and the number of people stepping off a plane in Montana was up nearly 18 percent, through November.”

All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at For more information call Nickerson at 406-243-5107 or email


This release is online at:


Glacier National Park Creates $172 Million in Economic Benefit

Visitor Spending Supports 2,754 Jobs in Local Economy

WEST GLACIER, MT. –A new National Park Service report shows that approximately 2.2 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2012 spent $172 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 2,754 jobs in the local area.

“We are honored and proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world to Glacier National Park,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow.   “Glacier is a special place and many times visitors travel to Montana specifically to visit Glacier, and are introduced to the many other wonderful amenities that Montana, and Northwest Montana have to offer.”

National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service.  National park tourism is a large factor in the local economy as well.  Mow said, “We are fortunate at Glacier National Park to be greatly supported by our partners, neighbors and local communities.  We appreciate this partnership and support, and believe the presence of the park helps sustain local communities.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the United States’ economy of $26.75 billion.

According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent), hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast locations (27 percent), and other amusement and recreation (20 percent).

To download the report, visit

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in Montana and how the National Park Service works with Montana communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, visit


Denise Germann
Management Assistant
Glacier National Park


Jobs. Community. Economy.

Shared from Voices of Montana Tourism.  Visit

Tourism Matters to Montana’s Economy 

Click image to enlarge

The tourism industry’s ability to attract visitors is meaningful because out-of-state spending has a significant and positive effect on Montana’s economy. According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR), non-residents spent a total of $2.77 billion in Montana in 2011. Traveler spending supports gas stations, restaurants, retail stores, hotels, state parks, outfitters and many other businesses. In turn, travel-related businesses create demand for local professional services, real estate, agriculture products and more — sending a positive ripple effect through the entire economy.

Tourism Creates Jobs
Non-resident travel supports 39,000 jobs in Montana. These jobs employ 7.7 percent of the state’s total labor force, which means that one in every 13 Montana workers is supported by out-of-state travel. The industry provides fertile ground for entrepreneurship and independent small business, and creates opportunities for people in every category of the socioeconomic spectrum. Indirect and induced jobs in professional services, real estate, agriculture, finance, insurance, construction and other sectors of the economy account for more than 25 percent of visitor-supported jobs.

As an industry that has experienced relatively steady growth over time, tourism has helped provide a hedge against boom and bust industries and has contributed to Montana’s economic diversity which is cited as a leading factor in the state’s ability to weather the recent recession.

Tourism Lowers the Tax Burden on All Montanans
Some parts of Montana see more visitors than others, but Montanans everywhere benefit from the lodging taxes paid by by overnight guests. For the 2012 fiscal year, it is estimated that lodging taxes will add $14.9 million to state coffers according to the Montana Office of Tourism (MTOT). Since Montana began allocating portions of the lodging tax to the general fund in 2003, the state has benefitted from approximately $94 million in lodging tax revenues.

Click image to enlarge

Along with lodging taxes, visitors directly contribute to Montana’s tax base by paying excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol and other goods. Non-resident travelers also indirectly contribute to income, property and insurance taxes by supporting local jobs and patronizing Montana businesses. According to ITRR, non-resident visitors generated $276 million in state and local tax revenues in 2011. Thanks to these taxes, out-of-state travelers reduce the tax burden on residents by approximately $687 per household.

Tourism Supports Montana Communities
The tourism industry works to promote and preserve the qualities that make Montana a great place to live, visit and work. Travelers add to the lifestyle many Montanans enjoy by allowing more air service, restaurants, shops, special events, ski runs, state parks and historical sites to exist than our population could support on its own. Within each town, hoteliers and members of the tourism industry are also often generous supporters of community causes, fundraisers and events.

The Importance of Destination Promotion
In a competitive marketplace where travelers have many options, the Montana Office of Tourism, state tourism regions and local visitor bureaus use lodging tax funds to provide strong representation for Montana. Before the lodging tax statute was created in 1987, Montana ranked towards the bottom in the nation for tourism marketing, and fewer than 3 million travelers came to the state each year. With a stable source of promotion funding, tourism has become a leading state industry over the past 25 years. Visitorship has increased by 260 percent since 1987, and visitor expenditures have grown at an average rate of 6.5 percent annually since the lodging tax was implemented in 1987.

Click image to enlarge

While many factors influence travel trends, there is no question that Montana would lose market share to competing destinations without promotion — giving up portions of the revenues, taxes and jobs we enjoy to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and other states. A 2011 study by Leisure Trends Group found that travelers are 45 percent more likely to visit Montana if they are aware of destination advertising. The same study estimated that each dollar spent on advertising Montana in fiscal 2010 resulted in $157 in visitor spending.

In addition to funding tourism promotion, lodging taxes benefit Montana State Parks, the Montana Historical Society and the Montana Heritage Commission. Fifty-seven percent of the lodging tax is allocated for tourism promotion and tourism infrastructure, and 43 percent is deposited in the state general fund for the benefit of all Montanans.


View All News