You don't need to work hard to find bumper stickers like, "Welcome to Montana. Now go home."

Yes, many Montanans love their sparsely populated parts of the state and wide open spaces. There is also that sense of independence, roots running deep and apprehensive about out-of-state visitors who might decide they want to move here and bring with them their ideologies that seem so contrary to what defines a Montana lifestyle.

Like them or not, once we leave our state for a vacation, we too are tourists. Maybe that empathy contributes to what seem to be pretty favorable numbers when it comes to welcoming tourists from beyond our borders.

University of Montana News Service shared with us some of the results from a recent UM  survey, which finds state residents still generally support tourism. But the most recent numbers and feedback show growing worries about overcrowding, quality of life and newcomers pouring into the state.

UM has conducted an annual tourism survey since 1992. The survey is taken October December, tracking perceptions of the tourism industry in Montana. It measures attitudes about the economic benefits, travelers and travelers behavior

Statewide, tourists got a decent grade, as 71% of Montanans still agree that the overall benefits of tourism outweigh the negative impacts. And nearly 80% of state residents feel that tourism promotion by the state benefits their communities economically. But then, it depends on which parts of the state are being asked.

A great example, and a pretty obvious one given the overwhelming influx of visitors recently, the highest levels of favorable agreement are those surveyed living closest to Yellowstone National Park.

The lowest level of agreement came from those in the Missouri River travel region in northeast Montana.

And in the 30 years the University of Montana has been conducting the survey, this is the first time that over half of the surveyed residents (56%) believe that the state is becoming overcrowded because of more tourists.

And what would a tourism survey be these days without a knod to COVID? For the second year in a row, residents were asked questions related to COVID-19 and travel. Less than half of Montana residents stated they are concerned about visitors in their community. And just under half said they were more likely to travel within Montana rather than visit other states due to the pandemic.

Our thanks to UM News Service and Jeremy Sage, economist and interim director, UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, for compiling some interesting statistics. You can get more details on the survey here.

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