Report: 12 Million Nonresident Travelers Spent $3.04 Billion in Montana Last Year

October 17, 2017

MISSOULA – The 2016 economic contribution of nonresident travelers to Montana was $3.04 billion spent by 12.4 million visitors, according to new figures released by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

Visitor spending directly supported nearly $2.5 billion in economic activity for Montana’s economy and nearly 34,700 statewide jobs. Nonresident travelers also indirectly supported an additional $1.7 billion of economic activity and almost 13,000 more jobs.

Visitation to Montana was up 5 percent in 2016, with 12.4 million travelers visiting the state during the year, said Kara Grau, ITRR assistant director of economic analysis.

The majority of those visitors – 46 percent or 5.7 million travelers – and the majority of money spent by them, came to the state during third quarter, July through September 2016. Spending in the third quarter totaled close to $1.4 billion, with travel groups spending an average of $131.11 per day during those summer months.

ITRR also recently completed an analysis highlighting the economic contribution of nonresident travel spending in each of Montana’s six travel regions. The analysis looked at the average spending data from 2015 and 2016 collected by the institute and how that travel-related spending was distributed around the state.

Glacier Country in northwest Montana received over $1 billion in spending by nonresident travelers, which was 32 percent of all spending in the state. This spending supported a total of $1.19 billion of economic activity and over 16,000 jobs, along with almost $420 million in associated labor income. 

In Yellowstone Country of south-central Montana, travel spending by nonresidents totaled over $930 million, or 29 percent of the state total. More than $1.16 billion of economic activity is supported by this spending. Likewise, nearly 15,700 jobs and $417 million in labor income can be attributed to this spending.

The remaining 39 percent of travel spending occurred throughout the state, contributing to jobs, income and economic activity in each region of the state.

ITRR Director Norma Nickerson said, “Visitation in 2017 appears to be on the upswing as July in Glacier produced the highest visitation for any month on record, and Yellowstone, while slightly lower than last year, was still experiencing near-record visitation. Montana’s two national parks continue to be a draw for out-of-state visitors.”

The full report, including estimates of the economic contribution of nonresident travelers in the other four Montana travel regions, along with county-level estimates, is available on the ITRR website at http://scholarworks.umt.edu/itrr_pubs/360/.

For more information about the 2016 statewide nonresident visitation and spending estimates, visit http://scholarworks.umt.edu/itrr_pubs/358/. All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at http://www.itrr.umt.edu.

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Contact: Jeremy Sage, economist and associate director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-5552, jeremy.sage@umontana.edu; Kara Grau, assistant director of economic analysis, ITRR, 406-243-5107, kara.grau@umontana.edu.