May 6-12 marks the 35th anniversary of the 1983 congressional resolution that established National Travel and Tourism Week. This is a week to reflect on the contributions and accomplishments of the travel community and celebrate the value that travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being.
In Montana, with successful promotions attracting 12.4 million nonresident visitors, most of whom come in the summer months, it can be easy to get hung up on the inconveniences created with more people on the roads, lined up in stores or in the places we like to eat.
I believe National Travel and Tourism Week is a great time to reflect on the positive impacts the visitor economy brings to Montana.
Tourism fuels Montana’s economy, as nonresident visitors spent $3.4 billion in 2017, according to the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research. Those dollars are spent on guides, outfitters, restaurants, retail, farmers markets and hotels that helps Montana’s small businesses and Main Streets.
Tourism creates jobs. According to ITRR, visitors supported 53,000 jobs with $1.35 billion in salaries directly related to tourism industry jobs. Those dollars that were injected into Montana’s economy from visitors will circulate in our communities many times over.
Tourism lowers the tax burden on all Montanans. In the past seven years, over $161 million has been deposited to the state general fund from lodging taxes alone. Tourism lowers taxes $491 for each Montana household.
Tourism improves Montanans access to other places with growing air service that includes new nonstop cities, large aircraft and even new airlines. The foundation for continued expansion of Montana’s economy across many sectors, including high tech, health care and manufacturing, relies on reliable air access. Since 1987, when Montana’s tourism industry began to grow, airline enplanements have more than doubled to nearly 2 million per year.
Tourism supports communities to promote and preserve the qualities that make Montana a great place to live, work and play. Travelers add to the lifestyle many Montanans enjoy by supporting more restaurants, shops and special events. What we enjoy now is far more than what the state’s population could support on its own.
I’m proud to live in a state that is a desirable place for others to visit; I feel lucky about that. Sure, I may wait in line a little longer this summer, but I’m going to thank and welcome that visitor, because they are making Montana better.
Dax Schieffer is director of Voices of Montana Tourism, and writes from Helena.