From the July 31, 2012 edition of the Billings Gazette

Montanans are outnumbered 10 to 1 by their out-of-state visitors. That demand for hospitality is highly profitable for our sparsely populated state.

Last year, nonresident travelers pumped $3.3 billion into Montana’s economy, according to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. That impact includes supporting 28,210 jobs in the tourism industry and 10,600 other jobs supported by tourism businesses and their employees. The industry also generated about $275.7 million in state and local taxes.

About $20 million of that is state lodging tax money to promote Montana tourism. Additionally, Billings, West Yellowstone and many other Montana communities collect local lodging taxes for tourism promotion.

As Lorna Thackeray told Gazette readers Sunday, those investments pay off handsomely. Back in 1987 when the Montana Legislature enacted a 4 percent hotel/motel tax to support tourism promotion and some state-owned recreational sites, Montana was spending just $1 annually on tourism promotion and saw fewer than 3 million visitors a year.

The Billings Tourism Improvement District, which collects a tax of $1 per room per night for marketing Billings, has made our city competitive with other regional vacation and convention destinations.

Read the full story on the Billings Gazette website.