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Tourism organizations host forum on industry’s impact

Montana tourism organizations are working to better inform business leaders and legislators about tourists’ impact on the state’s economy.

Voices of Montana Tourism hosted a forum Monday in Missoula to talk about the industry. Destination Missoula, Glacier Country Tourism, Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association and Windfall all sponsored the event, with about 100 people registered to attend the luncheon.

“We’re bringing in a lot of the local businesses to talk about the value of tourism and we travel the state and we tell the story of how important tourism is to Montana’s economy. As a leading industry, non-resident visitors bring in $3.4 billion. So, when we can get into a community, we can talk to policy makers, business leaders and discuss some of the advantages of a strong visitor economy and some of the threats that exist out there,” said Dax Schieffer, executive director of Voices of Montana Tourism.

The next legislative session starts in January. Barbara Neilan, executive director of Destination Missoula, says they hope law-makers can learn more about the industry’s impact and the tools available to them when tourism-based bills come up.

Organizers also say it’s good information for any Montanan.

“It’s really important for Montanans to know that we have this growing industry. Montana's a beautiful place. We have more and more people that want to experience it and that creates a lot of jobs," said Schieffer.

“I think people are going to be really surprised. Even people who think that they’re fairly educated around tourism, I don’t think that you really understand the depth and breadth of how it affects every person in this state,” said Neilan.

Data from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research says tourism in 2017 supported 53,380 jobs statewide - $1.35 billion in salaries, generated $205 million in state & local taxes and lowered taxes on each Montana household by over $491.

Schieffer said there are four components that make up the tourism economy – attraction, accommodation, access and awareness. Access is a big one he says that has really helped increase tourism in recent years.

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