From the Sept. 9, 2012 edition of The Daily Inter Lake
By Heidi Gaiser

Montana made its mark in the tourism industry nationwide this summer, topping all 50 states in July with a hotel-room occupancy rate of 84 percent. Flathead Valley hotels certainly weren’t left out of the equation.

The Holiday Inn Express in Kalispell was a leading example. The hotel, which has been open five years, was at 99 percent occupancy of its 111 rooms for July and August — “almost perfect,” General Manager Angie Bowman said.

“We’ve had a stellar year,” she said, noting that traffic grew by 8 percent over summer 2011.

That figure matches the state average of an increase of 8 percent in June, and more than 4 percent in July over the previous year, according to Smith Travel Research Inc. Through July, year-to-date hotel occupancy was up 3 percent in Montana and room revenue is up nearly 10 percent compared to 2011.

A full house is fairly routine most years for Hidden Moose Lodge in Whitefish — with 80 to 90 days consecutively sold out most years — but owner Kent Taylor said demand for rooms was definitely higher this season. He said they don’t just turn people away cold, however, but try to route them to other lodgers.

“Everyone is trying to accommodate guests here,” he said.

Even smaller establishments in out-of-the-way spots, such as the six-room Cabin Creek Landing Bed & Breakfast in Marion, had reason to be happy with 2012’s summer season.

“We’ve been full quite a bit this summer,” manager Chet Todd said. “My wife and I haven’t had any break or lack of guests for a couple months.”

It’s only the second year that Cabin Creek has been open. The management has been pleasantly surprised with how the establishment has been discovered already.

The summer of 2011, they had always been able to take overflow guests from places that were full. This year, they sometimes had to turn down referrals.

It was all encouraging to owner Rick Todd.

“We started from ground zero last year, and we’re out in Marion, so we’re just getting known,” he said. “We’re out west, so people don’t know how cool it is. People come to see Glacier, then they explore around here, and see that it’s very cool as well.”

The June 20 opening of Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier Park helped move the park’s visitor numbers, with visits up 12 percent — an additional 102,863 people — in June and July compared to 2011. Year-to-date visitation to Glacier is up 14 percent.

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