Voices of Montana Tourism

HELENA ― Labor Day weekend marked the end of the summer travel season, and preliminary figures suggest that it was a strong summer for tourism in Montana.

Montana hotel occupancy outperformed the national average in June and July, topping all other states with 84 percent hotel room occupancy in July. Demand for Montana hotel rooms also increased average daily room rates by nearly 8 percent in June and more than 4 percent in July over the previous year, according to Smith Travel Research, Inc.

National Park Service numbers for June and July combined show that recreation visits increased by 12 percent at Glacier National Park and more than 1 percent at Yellowstone National Park compared to the same period last year.

Additionally, the number of passengers at Montana airports increased year-over-year by 7 percent in June and 8 percent in July according to reports from the Montana Department of Transportation.

“We benefitted from steady gas prices, a national uptick in travel and warm weather early in the season,” said Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association Executive Director Stuart Doggett. He also attributed the success to the state’s strong tourism marketing.

Last year 10.5 million out-of-state travelers spent $2.8 billion in Montana, and year-to-date figures indicate numbers will be higher in 2012 if current trends continue.

Preliminary survey results from the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana show a 6 percent year-over-year increase in the number of travelers visiting the state in the first two quarters. Year-to-date recreation visits are up 14 percent in Glacier and more than 4 percent in Yellowstone as of July, according to National Park Service data.

Through July, year-to-date hotel occupancy is up 3 percent and room revenue is up nearly 10 percent compared to 2011, according to Smith reports. Also the MDT reports airport passengers are up by more than 6 percent year-to-date.

Doggett was optimistic that Montana would see a third consecutive year of tourism growth by the end of December. “This is meaningful because out-of-state travelers give a big boost to our economy, and the dollars that travelers spend here allow Montana businesses to retain and create more jobs.”

Along with contributing to Montana’s economy and job market, non-resident travel benefits the state’s general fund with the 3 percent lodging facility sales tax on Montana accommodations. Travelers also add to Montana’s tax base by paying excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol and other goods, and by supporting businesses and workers who pay corporate, income and property taxes.

Voices of Montana Tourism is a collaboration of 20 statewide organizations formed in 2011 that works to raise awareness about tourism’s value to Montana and foster supportive policies affecting tourism and tourism promotion.