The University of Montana Travel Institute has released some updated numbers that likely will not come as a big surprise to very many people.

In 2019, nonresident travelers spent $3.77 billion throughout Montana, a 5.4% increase from the previous year. Over 12.6 million nonresidents visited in 2019. Research by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research reveals a different story in 2020. Nearly all of the second quarter was shut down to travelers this year due to the pandemic, devastating the usual influx of out-of-state money into Montana’s economy.

The second quarter generally accounts for a bit more than 20% of annual traveler spending in the state. And the latest available statistics by the National Park Service show big visitation declines in June in Montana’s Glacier and Yellowstone national park. Glacier was down 62% during June 2020, and Yellowstone was down 32% in June compared to that month a year ago. July figures are not yet available for Glacier, but Yellowstone actually experienced a 2% increase in visitors when compared to July 2019. In general, when the two national parks do well, Montana’s tourism does well. As travelers drive to the parks, they spend extra time in Montana just to get there.

One bright spot? Campgrounds are an exception to the general decrease in accommodation business. Nationally, there are reported spikes in recreational vehicle sales and rentals. Of the 14 campground owners surveyed in Montana 12 said inquiries are up or have stayed the same. Our guess there is that a higher amount of Montana residents staying in the state and enjoying those amenities more.

Safe and healthy travels to all.


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