Montana Public Radio

Montana Tourism Businesses Hurting Amid Pandemic

May 29, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 5:50 pm

While survey results released on May 29 show people are feeling safer to travel, over 90 percent of Montana’s tourism businesses say they expect a long, slow recovery from COVID-19.

Montana’s tourism businesses reported 70 percent fewer bookings for June compared to the same time last year. That’s according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) at the University of Montana during the first week of May.

At the time, the state had recently lifted the stay at home order and allowed some non essential businesses to partially reopen. Yellowstone and Glacier national parks had yet to announce their reopening plans and the two week self quarantine requirement for out of state travel was still in effect.

The ITRR survey is the third in a series intended to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on Montana’s travel related businesses.

“If I were to summarize in a word or two the sentiment from each survey, it would be ‘slightlyworried’ in mid March, ‘frightened’ at the end of March and ‘angry’ in early May,” ITRR Director Norma Nickerson said, adding many blamed the two week self quarantine for out of state travellers.

Almost six percent of the survey participants said they had permanently closed. More than one third said they wouldn’t have been able to make it past six months if conditions had continued. A quarter of the participants said they could have lasted up to a year.

To make up for the loss of revenue, the majority of businesses said they had reduced their marketing and inventory and modified their cancellation policies. About half received COVID-19 related financial aid.

The ITRR survey found that, on average, eight positions per travel business will not be filled for the near future.

Through March, travellers said health concerns for themselves and their communities steadily increased. However, by May, those concerns began to taper.

More than 70 percent of the participants in the most recent survey said they were extremely concerned about the economy, which is up from around 40 percent in March.

Many out of state travellers who had plans to visit Montana later in the summer have a ‘wait and see’ attitude. 80 percent of Montanans said they are likely to travel but stay in state in the coming months.

 
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