From the Sept. 9, 2012 edition of the Missoulian
by Tristan Scott

The passing of Labor Day marks an end to the summer travel season in Montana, and preliminary figures released this week suggest that it was another banner year for the state’s tourism industry.

Survey results from the University of Montana’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research show a 6 percent year-over-year increase in the number of nonresident travelers visiting the state in the first two quarters of 2012, and hotel occupancy in Montana – perhaps the most effective measuring stick of a tourist season’s robustness – outperformed the national average in both June and July. In July alone, Montana topped all 50 states with 84 percent hotel room occupancy.

“We’re waiting for August results and we still have four months left in 2012, but we’re optimistic that Montana will see a third consecutive year of tourism growth by the end of December,” said Stuart Doggett, executive director of the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association. “This is meaningful because out-of-state travelers give a big boost to our economy, and the dollars that travelers spend here allow Montana businesses to retain and create more jobs.”

Tourism remains one of Montana’s leading industries, and in recent years it has joined a short list of economic niches in the state to show rapid growth, said Mary Paoli, spokeswoman for Montana Voices of Tourism. Last year, 10.5 million out-of-state travelers spent $2.8 billion in Montana, and year-to-date figures indicate that these numbers will be higher in 2012 if current trends continue.

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