Montana’s tourism industry saw more people last year, but fewer dollars.
In 2016 about 12.5 million out of state visitors came to Montana, that’s up 3 percent over 2015.
But they spent about 5 percent less, says UM’s Norma Nickerson.
“The year before it was down as well and we thought, ‘well it’s the Canadian dollar being weak and our dollar strong,’ but now we can’t blame it on that and we can’t blame it on the gas prices so we’re not totally sure why that’s the case,” she said.
Out of state tourists spent $3.6 billion in Montana in 2015. This year it was a hundred million dollars less.
Nickerson says data points to shorter lengths of stay in the state. On average, one night less. She said that, coupled with larger groups spending less together could be partially to blame.
Yellowstone and Glacier National Park remained big draws in 2016, bolstered by the National Park Centennial.
Nickerson said 2017, while still a bit of a wild card, shows promise.
“Nationally, they’re still saying that consumer confidence is quite high and that consumer spending is ok And when those things are up, we think we’ll probably have likea two percent increase in both the spending and number of visitors in the state of Montana,” she said.
Domestic travelers are still the state’s bread and butter when it comes to tourism. International visitors only make up 3 percent of the total.