Outfitted, guided experiences are becoming increasingly crucial to Montana tourism, judging by the big dollars being laid out for them.

A University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research report says that last year, spending on outfitters and guides rose to the fourth highest spending category by nonresident visitors to Montana, topping out at nearly $374 million, or 11 percent of all visitor spending. The only categories that were higher? Fuel, restaurants and lodging.

Last year, outfitters and guides served more than 700,000 clients, who spent $791 million, including their dining, lodging and travel, among other associated expenses.

Traditionally, we think of all that outfitting and guiding money being spent on hunting, fishing and rafting excursions, but according to the report, there's a lot more to it. In recent years, the definition has become more fully encompassing of the Montana outdoor recreation experience. Sure, lots of visitors hire guides for fishing, hunting and rafting. But the demand for other guided activities such as horseback riding, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing and outdoor education is growing.

It sounds like there could be a lot of demand for Montana's many different outdoor amenities. If you can guide it, they will come? Well, maybe. Just be good at it. It doesn't take many bad reviews, then others will go elsewhere!

DB