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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.

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.

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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.

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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.


A New Partner – Voices of MT Tourism

Voices LogoVoices of Montana Tourism is a collaboration of 24 statewide organizations that formed in 2011 to raise awareness about tourism’s value to Montana. Through education and communication, the group works to foster supportive policies affecting tourism and tourism promotion — which is funded with lodging tax revenues paid by overnight guests of Montana accommodations.

Tourism Matters to MT is proud to partner with Voices of Montana Tourism to help bring awareness to the power of tourism in Montana.  We will be looking to Voices of MT Tourism to help us spread the word of news, economic statistics and domestic and international news related to our industry.

Tourism Rebounds as Economy Improves

From the Dec. 11, 2012 edition of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle
by Laura Lundquist

The recession is a thing of the past if measured by Montana’s popularity with tourists.

More than 10.9 million people will have visited Montana in 2012 by the year’s end, a 3.2 percent increase over 2011 totals, according to the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.

That number also tops the 2007 peak of 10.6 million tourists and the subsequent recession-related drop to about 10 million in 2008 and 2009.

“It’s still preliminary since 2012 isn’t over yet, but it probably won’t change much,” said institute director Norma Nickerson.

Montana’s national parks reported a 9 percent increase in the number of visitors during the first nine months of this year. That increase is slightly skewed because it reflects a 21 percent increase in Glacier National Park visitors, made possible by an earlier opening of the Going-To-The-Sun Highway.

Still, the number of people visiting Yellowstone National Park increased 2 percent to almost 4.4 million visitors through November.

Some of those visitors came to Montana through Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, which is close to becoming the busiest airport in the state.

Almost 400,000 travelers flew into Bozeman in 2011, and the airport is well on the way to meeting that mark this year. As of September, about 350,000 had shuffled through the airport gates.

More than 1.3 million people made use of the state’s eight airports.

Tourists not only spent money in the state but also appeared to spend a little more lavishly. They dropped almost $3.2 billion into Montana cash registers, which was 15 percent more than they spent in 2011 and slightly more than the $3.1 billion they spent in 2007.

The good news for businesses is that the upward trend is predicted to continue.

Read the full story on


MISSOULA, MT, December 7, 2012 –

More than 10.9 million out-of-state travelers will have visited Montana in 2012, according to a preliminary estimate by The University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. This is a 3.2 percent increase over the number of nonresident travelers in 2011.

The increase in visitor volume injected more dollars into the Montana economy. According to Kara Grau, assistant director of economic analysis at ITRR, nonresident travelers spent nearly $3.2 billion in Montana in 2012, which was a 15 percent increase over spending in 2011.

Nonresidents spent more money per day during the first quarter ($144.64 per day) and the least amount during third quarter ($129.61). “Much of this difference is attributed to more people passing through in the summer and camping or staying at private homes instead of motels,” said Grau.

In addition to the nonresident travel, 15 million residents traveled for leisure within Montana in 2012, spending $833 million around the state. The direct dollars spent in the Montana travel industry by residents and nonresidents is estimated to be $4 billion.

Montana’s six national-park-system units had a 9 percent increase in visitation above 2011 numbers for the first three quarters of 2012. This includes a 21 percent increase in visitors to Glacier National Park and a 2 percent increase in Yellowstone. Glacier’s large increase in visitation can be attributed to the Going-to-the-Sun Road opening date, which was nearly three weeks earlier than 2011.

Airport deboardings in Montana increased 6 percent for the first three quarters in 2012 compared to the same time frame in 2011. Nearly 1.3 million people deboarded in one of Montana’s eight airports, which includes the seasonal West Yellowstone Airport.

“All the indicators of visitation and spending show that the travel industry has rebounded quickly from the recent recession,” said Norma Nickerson, director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. “Even at the national level, travel volume and travel spending are expected to continue to increase in 2013. Montana should expect at least a 2 percent increase in nonresident visitation with an increase in spending of nearly 4 percent in 2013.”

According to a recent ITRR study, this agrees with 64 percent of tourism business owners across the state who said they expect an increase in 2013. “2012 was a good year economically for many of the small business and this trend will continue through 2013,” Nickerson said.

Average daily expenditures by nonresident visitors to Montana are included in the following chart:

Expenditure Category





Full Year

Average Daily

 Average Daily

 Average Daily

Average Daily

Weighted Avg. Daily

Private Campground, RV Park

$  0.02  $  0.58  $  1.00  $  0.83

$  0.75

Public Campground, RV Park

$  0.01  $  0.23  $  0.27

$  0.18

Hotel, Motel

$ 18.48  $ 13.62  $ 13.39  $ 10.56

 $ 13.58

Rental cabin, Condo

$  1.81  $  1.08  $  1.93  $  0.50

$  1.46

Gasoline, Oil

$ 46.71  $ 54.94  $ 46.11  $ 47.70

$ 48.70

Restaurant, Bar

$ 32.35  $ 22.83  $ 25.25  $ 25.54

$ 25.51

Farmers Market

$    -  $  0.01  $  0.02

$  0.01

Groceries, Snacks

$  7.73  $ 11.98  $ 11.47  $  9.17

$ 10.78

Retail sales

$ 27.64  $ 20.82  $ 21.92  $ 40.47

$ 25.36

Outfitter, Guide

$  1.07  $  0.48  $  2.08  $  0.06

$  1.22

Auto Rental

$  4.15  $  2.42  $  2.30

$  2.17

Vehicle Repairs

$  0.03  $  0.48  $  0.61  $  2.93

$  0.89

Transportation Fares

$  0.23  $  0.03  $  0.01  $  0.04

$  0.05

Licenses, Entrance Fees

$  3.31  $  2.56  $  2.79  $  2.42

$  2.73


$  0.84  $  0.12  $  0.08  $  0.17

$  0.19

Misc. Services

$  0.26  $  0.89  $  0.38  $  0.26

$  0.48

$ 144.64

$ 133.07

$ 129.61

$ 140.65

$ 134.07


For more information about UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research go online to For more information about this study, call Nickerson at 406-243-5686 or email

We Can’t Wait: President Obama Takes Actions to Increase Travel & Tourism in the United States

The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release, January 19, 2012

This morning, President Obama will sign an Executive Order and announce new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010 – with international travel to the United States supporting 1.2 million jobs alone. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market. Today’s announcement offers important steps to bolster job creation through a range of steps to better promote the United States as a tourism destination and improve secure visa processing. This is the most recent of a series of executive actions the President has announced to put Americans back to work and strengthen the U.S. economy.

“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” said President Obama.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $134 billion in U.S. exports in 2010 and is the nation’s largest service export industry, with 7% of total exports and 24% of service exports. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job. According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or “long-haul” travelers spend on average $4,000 on each visit.

Today’s announcement calls for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135%, 274%, and 50% respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010.  Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010.  In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. The Department of State has made tremendous progress in processing non-immigrant visas from these key markets, allowing them to issue more than 7.5 million visas in the last fiscal year, a 17% increase from the previous fiscal year. In the 2011 fiscal year, consular officers adjudicated more than a million visa applications in China and more than 800,000 in Brazil, representing 34 % growth in China and 42% growth in Brazil. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth.


Today’s Executive Order charges several agencies to take part in efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States:

  • The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior will be charged with:
    • Co-leading an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel & Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. This Task Force will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion (currently doing business as BrandUSA), a non-profit corporation established by Congress through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 to promote travel to the United States, and the Tourism Policy Council to ensure private sector participation and cross-agency coordination.
    • A particular focus of the Task Force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. The Department of the Interior manages iconic destinations in our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe. In 2010, more than 400 million visits were made by American and international travelers to these lands, contributing nearly $50 billion in economic activity and 400,000 jobs. Eco-tourism and outdoor recreation also have an outsize impact on rural economies, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
  • The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security will be charged with:
    • Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012.
    • Ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
    • Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and expanding reciprocal trusted travel programs for expedited travel (such as the Global Entry program).
  • The Department of Commerce will be charged with:
    • Establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States.

Additional initiatives announced today include:

  • New Pilot Program and Rule Change for Visa Processing in China and Brazil:
    • Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as individuals from any country renewing non-immigrant visas, or, in Brazil, younger or older first-time applicants. Link to fact sheet HERE for more information.
  • Final Rule to Expand and Make the Global Entry Program Permanent:
    • Global Entry is a program within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection that was created as a pilot in 2008 to facilitate expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. Due in part to innovative public-private partnerships, the Global Entry program now has more than 246,000 members, more than one million trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits, and efforts are underway to expand enrollment even further. There are currently 131 Global Entry kiosks at 20 airports and since launching, members have used Global Entry kiosks over 1.7 million times, saving CBP officers over 36,450 inspection hours—staff hours that CBP has then re-allocated to expedite regular passenger queues. This final rule will allow the program to be expanded to an additional 4 airports in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix, making the Global Entry program and expedited clearance available in airports that service approximately 97% of international travelers.
  • Appoint new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board:
    • A new membership of 32 private sector CEOs have been appointed by Commerce Secretary Bryson to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will build upon the work undertaken by the past Board addressing travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues. This Board consists of corporate executives across the nation, representing all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed to a two-year term to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. See the full list of new membersHERE.
  • Nomination of Taiwan to Visa Waiver Program:
    • Currently, more than 60% of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program.  The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to promote travel and tourism with our foreign partners, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. Since November 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has added nine countries to the Visa Waiver Program, bringing the program total to 36 countries.


Interested in learning further about visitors to your communities?  The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research’s (ITRR) new onlihne report builder will let users customize research reports to their needs. Visitors to the site can run reports based on either the Quarterly Nonresident data ITRR has been collecting since July 2009 or travel trend data such as airport deboarding figures or skier visits. The new report builder allows users to search the data extensively, based on individual interests.

Climate change and global warming have become “hot” topics of research over the past decade. Tourism is intimately a part of the climate change issue. The purpose of this literature review was to identify and understand where, how much, and what type of topics related to climate change and tourism currently exist in the literature.

This report converts zip codes of nonresident visitors to Montana into 210 Designated Market Areas and provides an investigation of four population segments. The first analysis looks at DMA representation divided by visitors’ primary reason for being in Montana with vacationers as the primary focus. The second section looks at repeat and first time vacationers to Montana. Finally, the zip codes of vacationers who spent at least one night in a selected travel region or CVB county were chosen for further analysis.

The Report Builder can be found on ITRR’s website by clicking “Customize Your Report” on the left-hand menu and selecting either “Quarterly Nonresident Data” or “Travel Trend Data.”

Nonresident Report Data:  Selecting this will allow users to run reports using the quarterly nonresident data beginning in 3rd quarter 2009. New quarterly nonresident data will continue to be added as it becomes available. Reports can be created based on numerous search criteria such as by region, county and city as well as by characteristics or demographics of Montana’s visitors, to name a few.

Travel Trends Data: Selecting this will allow users to view various travel-related data trends, depending on their interest. Trend data is available. Users can find both historical data as well as current data, provided on a monthly basis when possible.

In addition, ITRR has two new reports available on their website as well.

Climate Change & Tourism Literature Review

Designated Marketing Areas: Using Zip Codes as a Marketing Tool

For other reports, publications and Niche News’ on Montana’s tourism industry, be sure to visit ITRR’s website.

New Study Proves Tourism Promotion Campaigns Increase Visitation

Comprehensive Analysis of Michigan and Philadelphia Programs Reveal Increases in Jobs; State and Local Tax Revenue

July 6, 2011

Washington, DC – Reducing state and local tourism marketing programs in the name of saving taxpayer dollars impedes economic growth, according to new research conducted by Longwoods International and commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association. A comprehensive analysis of recent campaigns by the State of Michigan and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) reveals that marketing programs drive greater visitation, generate new tax dollars and create jobs for states and local communities.

“There’s a reason that America’s most prominent brands continue to increase their marketing budgets: it works,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “This study proves that destinations must operate like Nike, Apple and similar businesses that have followed the marketing path to success. Substantial cuts to destination marketing programs are counterproductive and will have long-term negative economic consequences.”

The research proves that destination marketing programs generate more tax revenue than they cost by driving substantial increases in visitation and spending in local communities.

“Legislators are ignoring basic economics if they slash destination marketing programs,” said the report’s author, Bill Siegel, founder and CEO of Longwoods International. “The return on investment of destination marketing programs is significant and nearly immediate.”

After inconsistent promotion efforts for decades, the Pure Michigan® state promotion campaign began regionally in 2006 and went national in 2009. The powerful and non-traditional storytelling of Pure Michigan® has stimulated 7.2 million trips to Michigan by out-of-state visitors. Those visitors spent $2 billion at Michigan businesses and generated $138 million in new tax revenue for Michigan – more than three times the cost of the advertising itself.

In 2010, the second year of national Pure Michigan® advertising, spending by out-of-state leisure visitors jumped 21%, from 2009 to $6.4 billion. At the same time, Michigan tourism-related employment rose by 10,000 jobs. While facing a large deficit and forcing significant cuts to entitlement programs, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder nonetheless added $10 million in additional funding to the Pure Michigan® campaign in 2011, stating: “It brought in more tax revenue than it has cost our state.”

In Philadelphia, a 1995 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts identified leisure travel as a potential replacement industry for lost manufacturing jobs. This led to the creation of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation in 1996 by Pew, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to promote the region to leisure travelers. Through a sustained marketing program over the last 15 years, Philadelphia’s image has transformed and visitation has surged, delivering returns to the city and state.

“Fifteen years ago, Philadelphia was considered a two-hour stop,” said Meryl Levitz, founding president and CEO of GPTMC. “Then we became on overnight sensation, and now we are a premier destination where visitors stay for multiple days and come back several times a year.”

Since 1997, overnight visitation to Greater Philadelphia has grown 66 percent, six times faster than the national growth rate of 11 percent. GPTMC’s most recent campaign began in 2009 in the midst of the deepest and longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. With a budget of just $4.3 million in 2009/2010, With Love, Philadelphia XOXO® generated 3.7 million incremental trips to the Philadelphia region, injecting $432 million in visitor spending and $24 million in new state tax revenue and $22 million to local governments. The marketing program also generated over 7,000 additional jobs for Greater Philadelphia at a reasonable cost of $600 in advertising for each job created.

According to the U.S. Travel Association’s 2009 annual Survey of State Tourism Office Budgets, 31 states cut funding for tourism advertising and marketing by 13 percent, or $52.7 million, between 2008 and 2009.

The state of Washington closed its tourism office in June 2011, harkening back to Colorado’s decision to abolish its marketing program in 1993 due to budget constraints. According to a landmark study by Longwoods International, Colorado eventually lost more than 30 percent of its share of domestic visitors and more than $2 billion annually in visitor spending. With funding for Colorado’s marketing program now restored, the state treasury sees a 12:1 return on marketing investment, and trips to Colorado have rebounded to record levels.

Download the complete study: The Power of Destination Marketing.

Cathy Keefe (202) 408-2183

Marketing Montana!

State Parks Enhance Montana’s Economy

News Courtesy of: Montana State Parks

HELENA – Visitors to Montana’s state parks spent $289 million throughout the state in 2010 according to an economic impact study completed this year. The comprehensive, survey-based assessment was conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at The University of Montana. Total spending was up 35 percent from 2002, the last time a similar survey was executed.

Montana State Parks had over 1.9 million visitors in 2010. This represents a 50 percent increase over park visitation in 2002. The majority of the increase was by Montanans, which increased nearly 79 percent.

“State parks are places that Montanans go to recreate and learn about their history,” said Chas Van Genderen, State Parks Administrator. “The vehicle registration fee has made state parks accessible to all residents and they are clearly using them in large numbers.”

The study showed that nonresident state park visitors stay in Montana for an average of seven days and spend $147 per day on gasoline, food, lodging, and other services and products. “Most of that spending is done within a 50-mile radius of a state park,” remarked Van Genderen. “That directly benefits those communities located near parks.”

Not only have parks seen increased usage, park visitors were more satisfied with service and facilities in 2010 than in 2002. Staff service, parking, rest rooms, signs, picnic areas, interpretive displays, and roads all rated higher in the minds of park visitors.

“The fact that visitors rated service and facilities the equivalent of 94 out of 100 speaks highly of the professional State Parks staff and the improvements and upgrades made over the past several years,” added Van Genderen. “This is up from a 90% rating in 2002, so we feel we are moving in the right direction.”

According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, “The fundamental conclusion of this study is that Montana State Parks represent an invaluable resource for the economy of Montana’s regions, as well as the state as a whole. Satisfaction with the park experience, usage of parks, and spending, as well as ultimate economic impact, continues to grow. Clearly, the parks will continue to play an important role in the economic health of the state.”

The entire study can be found online at or can be obtained by calling the State Parks office at 406-444-3750.

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