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UM News
February 20, 2013

MISSOULA

Nearly $45 million were spent by nonresidents of the Beartooth region in the three gateway communities of Red Lodge, Cooke City and Cody, Wyo., during the four-month summer season of the Beartooth All-American Road, according to a study conducted by The University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.

Red Lodge and Cooke City received nearly $25 million in combined economic contributions, and Cody received $20 million from nonresident spending. Ninety-one percent of travelers on the highway were from outside the three gateway counties and were from all 50 states, all seven Canadian provinces and 30 foreign countries.

Jake Jorgenson, UM College of Forestry and Conservation graduate student, collected the data as part of his thesis.

“Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study is how important the designation of a scenic byway was to the people traveling the Beartooth Highway,” Jorgenson said. “In fact, 32 percent of the nonresidents primarily traveled the highway because of its designation, which was the highest reason of all, and 54 percent actually indicated the highway was a destination, not just a travel route to somewhere else.”

The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile travel corridor that reaches nearly 11,000 feet in elevation with sweeping vistas of snow-covered ridges, high plateau views, lakes and trails. A 54-mile segment of the road is designated as the Beartooth All-American Road, one of only 31 All-American Roads highlighted as the most scenic byways in the U.S.

Results of the study also included:

  • The most frequently reported visitor motivations for traveling the Beartooth Highway included scenic beauty, natural surroundings and open space.
  • First-time visitors of the highway made up 44 percent of all nonresident travelers. Their emotional response to the high alpine road was more reserved, nervous and stressed compared to repeat visitors, but first-time visitors enjoyed the Beartooth Highway as much as repeat visitors.
  • Travelers along the Beartooth Highway spent an average of two nights in the region. About half of them also spent time in Yellowstone National Park, one quarter of whom spent at least one night in Billings, West Yellowstone or Jackson, Wyo.

No visitor research has been conducted on the Beartooth Highway in the past. This new report provides information for policymakers, marketers and businesses of the gateway communities.

The “Beartooth Highway: 2012 Summer Use and Image” report can be found online at http://www.itrr.umt.edu/Research2013/BTHSummerReport.pdf and a breakdown of the economic impact on the region can be found at http://www.itrr.umt.edu/Research2013/BeartoothHWYSummerEconContribution.pdf. For more information call ITRR Director Norma Nickerson at 406-243-2328 or email norma.nickerson@umontana.edu.

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Contact: Norma Nickerson, director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-2328, norma.nickerson@umontana.edu.