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Montana's tourism and recreation industry.

Montana's tourism and recreation industry continued growing in 1992, sustained by a high quality product, effective promotion, and a relatively high national profile. An estimated 6.4 million nonresidents visited the state in 1992, an increase of 8.2 percent over 1991. Nationwide in 1992, domestic travel increased at about half the Montana rate--an estimated 4 percent over the previous year. The industry as a whole was still recovering from the 1991 recession.

Preliminary figures indicate that nonresident expenditures totaled $900 million in 1992, up 8.7 percent over the 1991 estimate of $828 million. Total revenues from Montana's accommodations tax also rose in 1992, up an estimated 12 percent over the previous year. The state benefitted as well from favorable U.S.-Canada exchange rates and from implementation of the Canadian Goods and Services Tax (GST). Canadian visits to Montana doubled in the period 1987 to 1991.

Most visitors (91 percent) arrived in Montana by automobile, but nonresident airplane deboardings also grew in 1992. Overall, nonresident deboardings at Montana airports rose an estimated 12 percent in 1992, with significant increases at each of the seven major airports. Billings airport was the busiest in 1992, with Bozeman and Missoula in a see-saw battle for second place.

As usual, summer was Montana's strongest travel season. Visitor numbers grew by an estimated 8.8 percent for the 1992 summer quarter (July, August, September); revenue from the accommodations tax rose 8 percent for the same period. The 1992 summer season accounted for slightly more than half (51.5 percent) of yearly nonresident travel into the state; for 41 percent of total accommodations tax revenue; for 64 percent of all 1992 Yellowstone Park nonresident visitors; and for 75 percent of Glacier Park's 1992 nonresident visitors.

A different trend emerges for Montana's winter season recreation industry. During the 1991-92 winter season, total skier visits remained flat statewide. The nonresident portion rose slightly (1.6 percent) over the previous season.

Recent economic and political changes suggest a positive national climate for the travel and tourism industry. The recession ended, and with the election of a new president, consumer confidence rose. While an important factor for industry health, consumers' confidence must be accompanied by disposable income as well. For 1993, the U.S. Travel Data Center is forecasting a 5 percent increase in domestic travel.

The above-named factors will affect travel to Montana in 1993. Also important are the U.S.-Canada exchange rate; stability in the state's promotion efforts; continuing interest in Western and Native American themes (shown by movies like "A River Runs Through It," and "Dances with Wolves"); growing interest in natural environments; maintaining good value for visitor dollars; and attending to Montanans' concerns about tourism industry impacts.

Steve McCool is director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT.
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Title Annotation:focus on major Montana industries
Author:McCool, Steve
Publication:Montana Business Quarterly
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Previous Article:Agriculture forecast.
Next Article:Montana's forest products industry.

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