From the Feb. 12, 2012 edition of the Missoulian
by Jenna Cederberg

Members of Montana’s travel and tourism industry have launched a new initiative to help raise awareness about the economic impact the industry has across the state, in advance of the 2013 Montana Legislature.

Voices of Montana Tourism aims to promote statistics like this: According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, nonresident visitors spent $2.4 billion in the state in 2010. That’s a $157 return on every dollar spent advertising Montana as a travel destination during that same year.

Along with raising awareness of the economic benefits of tourism, Voices of Montana Tourism also wants to spread the word on the need for funding to market Montana as a tourist destination, said Mary Paoli, the public relations manager brought in to help run the initiative through the 2013 legislative session.

The privately funded initiative was spearheaded by the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association, which is now collaborating with 16 other tourism and travel organizations from across the state. An 11-person advisory committee oversees that initiative.

The 2011 state legislative session proved especially tough to keep funding flowing for tourism marketing, Paoli said. During the session, two bills passed – but were then vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer – that threatened the tourism marketing funding mechanism, the lodging tax.

House Bill 316 would have taken 10 percent of the lodging tax used for promotion and put it into the general fund. House Bill 317 was an appropriations bill that included sunsetting the statute that funds the lodging tax.

After the session, “a group of industry leaders got together to form the coalition, to raise tourism’s visibility and do a better job educating Montanans and leaders on why tourism matters to the state,” Paoli said.

Read the full story on the Missoulian website.