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Survey finds Montanans supportive of tourism, but anxious about the industry’s future

The tourism and recreation industry supported nearly fifty thousand jobs and brought over $5 billion into Montana last year. That contributed to more than two-thirds of Montanans saying they think the positive aspects of tourism outweigh the negatives in an annual survey conducted by the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

But longer-term data gathered by the institute show support for that viewpoint has declined by around 20% in the last decade, while belief that increased tourism in the future will negatively impact residents’ quality of life has doubled.

“Around like 2016-17, a lot of these things were starting to trend anyway. And then the pandemic just kind of put it into overdrive a little bit.” Said Carter Bermingham, a social scientist and one of the survey’s authors.

Bermingham says one way the industry could try and change those opinion trends is by emphasizing the tax contributions tourism makes. The institute estimates tourism reduced the average household tax burden in Montana by $930 in 2023.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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