Contact: Norma Nickerson, director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 406-243-2328, norma.nickerson@umontana.edu; Jeremy Sage, assistant director, 406-243-5552, Jeremy.sage@umontana.edu; Kara Grau or Megan Schultz, 406-243-5685.


Montanan’s DO travel in Montana and spend money


MISSOULA – Montana residents took over 13.5 million day trips and 4 million overnight trips for leisure, business, or other trip types at least 50 miles away from their home in 2017. Their spending on these trips totaled nearly $2.87 billion according to a report from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

Resident day trips represented more than three times the number of overnight trips, and subsequently more total dollars are spent due to day trips ($1.66 billion in day trips; $1.21 billion in overnight trips).

Business day trips and leisure overnight trips by residents have the highest spending of all trip types. Day and overnight business trips contribute $1.36 billion to travel spending. Leisure trips contribute $1.13 billion to the economy while other types of trips such as medical, shopping, and so forth, contribute $374 million.

The highest percent of all travel dollars were expended in Glacier and Southwest Montana travel regions (see map), as they represent 50% of all resident day trip and 48% of all overnight travel dollars.

“What is interesting,” said Norma Nickerson, Director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, “Is that the western part of the state receives the most dollars from residents traveling there, but Yellowstone County captures 13.2 percent of all resident travel spending, the highest of all counties. Billings accounts for 97 percent of the traveler’s dollars in that county.”

Missoula County, with 503,900 overnight trips and $153,976,000 in spending is the next highest recipient county of resident travel dollars, followed by Gallatin and Lewis & Clark Counties.

“Restaurant and bars make up the highest spending category in each county, out spending gasoline and lodging,” said Dr. Nickerson. “Apparently eating out and visiting local breweries is a great excuse to travel at least 50 miles from home.”

Results of the ITRR study show that residents’ county of origin to other counties reflects the Montana population. The most populated counties (Yellowstone, Missoula, Cascade, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark, and Flathead) represent the highest percent of visitation to all other counties.

The report looks in detail at the top six counties where residents spent overnights: Yellowstone, Missoula, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Flathead, and Cascade. If the top outdoor activities from each (scenic driving, day hiking and wildlife watching) are removed, there are interesting differences. Yellowstone and Cascade counties show the highest percent of their visitors enjoy recreational shopping while special dining tops the other four counties. Going to museums landed in the top eight activities for Gallatin County, viewing art exhibits was in the top eight for Lewis and Clark County and motor boating emerged in Flathead County. All six counties also had participation in going to local breweries with Missoula County having the highest percent who indicated a need to taste the local brews.

Total travel industry spending in Montana is $6.23 billion dollars; 54 percent contributed by nonresidents and 46 percent by resident travel within the state. Nonresidents provide the economic impact to the state by bringing in new dollars. Residents provide their impact to counties outside their current residence.

The ITRR study surveyed 10,795 Montanans ages 18 and older who were intercepted at gas stations and rest areas throughout the state during 2017 to assess overall trip types and numbers. An additional survey was completed by 1,341 residents who provided more detail into a specific trip within the past month.

More information on the study is available at https://scholarworks.umt.edu/itrr_pubs/367/.  All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at http://www.itrr.umt.edu.