From the Feb. 13, 2012 edition of the Billings Gazette
By Lorna Thackeray

Each year, Montana hosts more than 10 times its population in out-of-state visitors.

They drop about $2.4 billion on everything from hotel rooms to gambling and send a ripple through the economy that affects everything from sales at the mall to insurance agencies that carry policies on hotels and restaurants.

According to studies by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 34,000 Montana jobs — about 7 percent of the state’s workforce — are supported by tourism dollars.

“If Montana’s economy is a seven-layer dip, tourism is the chip that crosses all the layers and contributes something beneficial,” said Mary Paoli on Wednesday in Billings.

Paoli is the public relations manager for a three-month-old organization called Voices of Montana Tourism.

It will be her job over the next year to try to educate legislators, candidates, businesspeople and the rest of Montana that tourism is an important piece of Montana’s overall economy.

The goal of Voices of Montana Tourism is to forestall the biannual assault on the proceeds of Montana’s 7 percent lodging tax, much of which is spent promoting the state to potential visitors. (Of the total revenue from the tax, 43 percent goes to the state’s general fund.)

Read the full story on the Billings Gazette website.  

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