UM Study: 11.7M Nonresident Travelers Spent Nearly $3.7B in Montana Last Year

April 28, 2016

MISSOULA – Nonresident travelers mean big bucks for Montana.

The final 2015 nonresident visitor numbers were released April 27 by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. Researchers found the 2015 economic contribution of 11.7 million nonresident travelers to Montana was $3.7 billion.Pie graph illustrating nonresident expenditures.

These visitors directly supported more than $3.1 billion of economic activity and 46,000 Montana jobs and indirectly supported an additional $2 billion of economic activity and over 16,000 more jobs.

Visitation was up 7 percent in 2015, with 11.7 million travelers visiting the state during the year, said Kara Grau, ITRR assistant director of economic analysis. Forty-four percent, or 5.2 million, of those visitors were in the state during the third quarter of July through September.

Forty-eight percent of spending by travelers during 2015 occurred during the third quarter, totaling over $1.7 billion, with travel groups spending an average of $153.51 per day during those summer months.

Bar graph illustrating quarterly comparison of visitation and visitor spending.During the first and second quarters of 2015, traveler groups spent an average of $156.29 and $130.55 per day respectively, and totaled $377 million and $800 million. Fourth quarter group spending averaged $156.04 per day, totaling nearly $744 million. Overall, nonresident travelers spent a total of $3.7 billion in Montana during 2015.

Though total spending by nonresident travelers was down 6 percent from 2014, much of that reduction is due to significantly lower fuel prices during 2015. A full 32 percent of travelers’ expenditures during 2014 went toward fuel. Much less of nonresidents’ daily travel budget went toward fuel purchases during 2015 – just 20 percent, in fact.

“Spending on fuel is generally the largest expense for nonresidents traveling in Montana,” ITRR director Norma Nickerson said. “That was still the case in 2015, but not to the extent that we’ve seen in the past. Traveling through our expansive state cost our visitors much less last year, meaning they were able to put that money toward other things and other experiences while they were here.”

For more information about the 2015 nonresident visitation and spending estimates, visit All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at


Contact: Norma Nickerson, director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-2328,; Kara Grau, assistant director of economic analysis, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-5107,