Residents spent billions just vacationing in Montana last year

Print Article

Folks dance to the New Wave Time Trippers at the Coop Thursday.

It’s likely not just out-of-state visitors filling the streets of Columbia Falls this summer, a new report from the University of Montana shows.

Montana residents spent nearly $2.87 billion on in-state trips last year, according to a report from the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the university.

Montanans collectively took 13.5 million day trips and 4 million overnight trips at least 50 miles from their home, with travel to areas near Glacier National Park representing one of the most popular destinations.

Northwest Montana accounted for 3.8 million day trips and $469.8 million spent last year, as well as 1.17 million overnight trips for $351 million spent. The region includes Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sanders counties, with Missoula and Flathead representing the highest travel numbers.

Flathead County alone saw 470,000 day trips and $112.4 million in spending. Overnight travel in Flathead accounted for 322,400 trips and $98.3 million in spending.

Southwest Montana was the second most popular region, with the Yellowstone area coming in after that.

The northwest and southwest regions accounted for 60 percent of all resident day trips and 48 percent of all overnight travel spending.

Scenic driving and day hiking were the two most popular activities for those polled, but ITTR Director Norma Nickerson said food and beer are the biggest areas of spending for those vacationers.

“Restaurant and bars make up the highest spending category in each county, outspending gasoline and lodging,” Nickerson said. “Apparently eating out and visiting local breweries is a great excuse to travel at least 50 miles from home.”

Total travel industry spending in Montana was $6.23 billion last year, with 54 percent of that total coming from nonresidents. While nonresidents provide economic impact to the state by bringing in new dollars, Nickerson said residents help provide impact to counties outside their own.

The study surveyed 10,795 Montanans aged 18 and older at gas stations and rest areas throughout the state last year. An additional survey was completed by more than 1,300 residents to provide more detail.

More information on the study is available at All information and reports published by ITRR are available online at

Print Article

Read More Local News

Howe Ridge Fire grumbling above Rocky Point

August 21, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Hungry Horse News The 11,000 acre Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park late Tuesday evening was burning above Rocky Point, which is less than a mile from the Fish Creek campground. Winds were from the southwest, ...


Read More

Video shows father, son, trying to drive through Howe Ridge Fire

August 21, 2018 at 11:13 am | Hungry Horse News A dramatic video shows a father and son trying to escape the Howe Ridge Fire as it burned across the North Lake McDonald Road Aug. 12. Charles and Justin Bilton were camping at the Lake McDonald bac...


Read More

Evacuation warning issued for part of North Fork

August 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Hungry Horse News An evacuation warning was issued this afternoon for a small number of residences in the North Fork due to the Whale Buttes Fire. The warning runs from the Moose Creek Road to the Whale Creek Road no...


Read More

Howe Ridge Fire grows to 3,500 acres

August 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Hungry Horse News The Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park has grown to 3,500 acres after an active fire day Wednesday. The fire has spilled over Howe Ridge with additional spotting and growth on the north edge o...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 892-2151
PO BOX 189, 926 Nucleus Avenue
Columbia Falls, MT 59912

©2018 Hungry Horse News Terms of Use Privacy Policy