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.


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.



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.

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