MISSOULA – An analysis of Montana nonresident visitor comments recently completed by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana found that 89 percent of all unsolicited comments on the surveys were positive reviews of the state and their visit.
More than 1,100 nonresidents wrote comments in the annual survey conducted by ITRR. General positive comments were written most often, and ranged from exclaiming how friendly the people in Montana are to the beauty and open space, and a desire to visit again.
“Of all of the states I have been to or lived in, Montana is one of the most beautiful,” wrote one visitor. Another wrote, “Beautiful state! I was impressed by the outdoors, the local people and the amount of local microbreweries.” Many mentioned their desire to return to the state: “We enjoyed our stay in Montana! We got spectacular impressions of the landscape, wildlife and historical sites. We will come back!”
Nonresident visitors were quick to point out travel related issues they may have experienced. Some said the roads were in great condition while others thought the roads needed improvement. Better signage on Montana roads was mentioned, but with caution. One visitor wrote, “I always enjoy Montana and my time spent. As a tourist and retired truck driver I can appreciate the appropriate amount of both road signs and advertising signs without having the landscape cluttered, i.e. driving the billboard alley.”
Many nonresidents were once residents of the state and felt compelled to write their love of Montana. “Though I moved from Montana 15 years ago, I love coming back not only to visit my friends and family, but for an amazing vacation of open space, clean water and beautiful environment.” Others needed to point out that coming back to live in Montana was their desire, but it was difficult for them. “My husband was born and raised in MT. He would love to move back if there were more jobs & cost of living wasn’t so high (Flathead area).”
Most of the negative comments about Montana related to the lack of recycling opportunities around the state. “Love Montana – need a recycling program!” “I don’t think I’ve seen a single recycling bin.” Many Montana visitors come from cities and states where recycling is a way of life, such as Washington, California and Oregon, and they expect and want those same services available where they travel.
According to Norma Nickerson, director of ITRR, unsolicited comments from visitors provide an insight into what remains in the minds of the visitor upon their return home.
“When we see so many positive statements written about the state, it is more likely that word-of-mouth ‘advertising’ will benefit Montana,” Nickerson said. “Tourism is a huge contributor to Montana’s economy with over $3.27 billion spent by nonresidents in the state last year. A good experience by visitors encourages a healthy state economy.”
On the other side, however, Nickerson says it is important to listen to the suggestions and concerns visitors have about the state.
“Usually, visitors are not telling us things we don’t already know,” she said. “It’s just a matter of identifying those things we need to improve upon, be it recycling, road conditions or the waiter who was rude, and implement solutions. In the end, we all benefit.”