We know from an April 2015 report in the Missoulian that “outdoor recreation contributes $5.8 billion in consumer spending, 64,000 Montana jobs, $1.5 billion in wages and $403 million in state and local revenues.” For 2014, the state made $24.4 million in lodging taxes.
Two months later, however, the Flathead Beacon told us that visitors spent just $3.9 billion in the state, or $2 billion less than previous estimates.
When it comes to the National Parks, Yellowstone neared 4.1 million visits in 2015 while Glacier National Park had 2.36 million visitors that year.
A total of 11.7 million tourists came to Montana in 2015, though that year saw a decrease in tourist spending, with $3.6 billion spent, or $300 million to $2.2 billion less than the previous year. Lodging taxes rose to $27 million that year, however.
During the 2015-16 ski season, Whitefish Mountain Resort reported 320,000 skier visits.
In 2016 we had 12.5 million tourists come to the state, a 3% increase over the previous year. However, they spent $3.5 billion, or 5% less than they had the year before. The state made $27.9 million in lodging taxes that year.
A total of $5.5 million of that year’s tourist spending came via the Event at Rebecca Farm, which is the “largest equestrian triathlon in the U.S. each summer.”
We also know that of those 12.5 million tourists in 2016, a total of 4.4 million of them chose to camp here, or 36%.
Glacier National Park had 80,000 overnight camping stays in July 2016, or an average of 2,667 a night for the Park’s 1,014 campsites. “The campgrounds were effectively booked across the board,” officials told us.
While our National Parks get the glory, our State Park system still gets the visits, with 2.65 million going to those spots in 2016.
By July 2016 we were told that $7.1 billion is spent by tourists that choose to recreate here. 71,000 jobs are created from this and $2.2 billion in wages are produced. Another $286 million in state and local taxes is generated from this spending.
In 2014 tourists spent $3.9 billion and we had $1.5 billion in wages from that, but in 2016 tourists spent $3.2 billion more yet only $700 million in additional wages was created from this.
Nationally, Americans spent $579 billion a year on outdoor gear, sporting equipment and other items that many find necessary for recreating here in Montana.
Trail sports are the largest category, at $201 billion, while camping comes in second at $166 billion. Water sports and snow sports are third and fourth, with $140 billion and $73 billion, respectively. Here in Montana, the Whitefish Trail alone accounts for $6.1 million in tourist spending, and since 2009, the trail has generated $19 million in tax revenue for area schools.
In 2017, over 12 million tourists came to Montana, bumping the lodging tax revenue up by 5% to around $29 million.