Montana Tourism Industry Adjusts to Increasing Visitation - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montana Tourism Industry Adjusts to Increasing Visitation

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MISSOULA - This week marks the 2014 National Travel and Tourism Week-- a salute to those industries across America.

U.S. Travel Association data show the U.S. generated $2.1 trillion last year, making tourism the nation's number one service export.

Destination Missoula Executive Director, Barbara Neilan said tourism is the second largest industry in Montana, falling second only to agriculture.

"It brings right around $4 billion a year into our state, so it's massive," she added.

University of Montana research shows more than 11 million non-residents visited Montana last year, directly supporting about 30,000 jobs.

"You know, we had a blip like everybody else did when the economy went down, but our tourism now is healthy and strong."

Neilan said supporting the growth has required some adjustments within the tourism industry.

She said, "We very definitely are moving towards online marketing much more."

And, Neilan said travelers are spending less time planning out trips, making arrangements on the fly with their mobile devices.

"You know, you used to see the travelers making their plans way ahead of time, making their reservations, doing those kinds of things."

Neilan said Montana destinations have also adapted to changing travelers' needs, like offering free Wi-fi, or even electricity at campgrounds.

"People are looking for a certain level of amenity no matter where they're traveling," Neilan said.

Research also shows foreign visitors spent nearly $440 million in Montana, and international travel is expected to grow by 5% across the country. Neilan says they've identified the Canadian and Chinese markets as strong options for Montana visitation.

"You're just seeing different types of travel than we used to see," Neilan said.

Major events like the Spartan Race in Kalispell and the Big Sky Motorcross Race in Billings are expected to bring in large crowds into Montana this week.
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