MISSOULA, Mont. — The University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research recently published its findings on the state of tourism in Montana. The Treasure State is bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels with 12.5 million out-of-state visitors this year spending $5.15 billion in the state.
“We weren't surprised to see that we were up in terms of total volume of spending in the state,” said research director Jeremy Sage.
The large jump is likely due to an increase in car travel and a desire to be in the wide open spaces.
The majority of tourists hail from Washington, North Dakota, California and Idaho.
“Most of our Montana visitors are largely coming in by vehicle. 85-plus percent of people arrive in their car,” said Sage. “So Washington is close and has a pretty large population. California is not as close, but it's got a really large population, so that drives a lot of people in this direction.”
But there are some challenges with this large influx of visitation, notably staffing and finding affordable housing for staff.
“For those kinds of staff that are in these tourism-dependent industries, those are big challenges there. Gas prices and inflation also pose challenges,” said Sage.
Despite the consistent issues, the tourism game in Montana will likely stay strong, but experts don't think the next increase will be as large.
“I don't expect that we will see this continue with the large jumps moving forward. But I do expect Montana tourism to continue that positive trend,” said Sage.
You can find more information on the study here.