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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Montana Lost Millions In Tourist Revenue Due To 2017 Fire Season, Study Says

Widlfire smoke fills the sky in Seeley Lake August  7, 2017.
Eric Whitney
Montana Public Radio
Smokey sky in Seeley Lake, August 7, 2017.

A new study says Montana lost close to a quarter of a billion dollars in tourist revenue this year due to a tough fire season. That’s based on a survey of tourists by the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research.

"For every hundred visitors that came to Montana this summer, about eight to nine other visitors cancelled their trips because of the smoke," Associate Director Jeremy Sage says.

That adds up to about 800,000 tourists between July and September.

Frequency of cancelled trips by travel region.
Credit UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research Publications
Frequency of cancelled trips by travel region.

But, Sage says, a lot of visitors still came, and switched their destinations from northwest Montana where the smoke was worst to places like Gallatin and Park counties which were less impacted.

"The concern is always, is what we experienced this summer going to become more of the norm than an abnormality."

Sage says many of the tourists surveyed said that even if they cancelled Montana trips this summer, they’d still like to visit in the future if smoke isn’t as bad.

See the full report on tourism and wildfire here.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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