MISSOULA – This year was another strong year for tourism in Montana according to preliminary 2014 numbers gathered by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. Nearly 11 million nonresidents visited Montana and spent more than $3.9 billion in the Treasure State in 2014.
Nonresident visitation appears to be the same or slightly lower than 2013. While the number of individuals may have dropped slightly from 2013, the number of travel groups increased during the past year. Spending by nonresidents grew by 4 percent in the first quarter of the year, 20 percent in the second quarter and 9 percent in the third quarter.
"In total, nonresident travelers spent more than $3.9 billion in Montana,” UM ITTR Economic Analyst Kara Grau said, “the benefits of which ripple throughout the economy, supporting jobs and providing income, as well as contributing to taxes.”
Despite having slightly fewer people per visiting group than in 2013, and therefore lower individual visitation, many business owners benefitted from the increased group traffic during the past year. About 68 percent of all tourism-related business owners surveyed by ITRR this fall reported an increase in visitation or customers in 2014, and 31 percent of those said they saw a significant visitor increase of more than 10 percent over 2013. Only 10 percent reported seeing a decrease in customers. More than half (57 percent) of businesses responding to the ITRR survey expect to see their visitation increase in 2015.
ITRR Director Norma Nickerson said several other factors also indicate a good year for tourism.
“In 2014 hotel rooms sold were up 6 percent through November and skier visits showed a 6 percent increase over the 2012-13 season,” she said. “The national parks in Montana have experienced an 8 percent increase over 2013 and the number of people stepping off a plane in Montana was up nearly 18 percent, through November.”