Montana Public Radio

Jeremy Sage

A photo from June 06, 2020 shows the closed St. Mary entrance into Glacier National Park, which borders the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The Blackfeet Nation has maintained travel closures longer than Glacier Park or the state of Montana.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

A full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses on or near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation are waiting to hear if the east gates of Glacier National Park will reopen. MTPR’s Aaron Bolton reports on how the Blackfeet Tribe is navigating the upcoming tourism season as businesses push to reopen their doors to travelers.

A rising, though still relatively small, number of Montanans hold negative perceptions toward tourism, according to an update to a University of Montana report released Friday.

UM’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research says survey data from November and December indicate a majority of Montana residents believe the overall benefits of tourism outweigh the negative impacts and that tourism promotion by the state benefits their local economies.

Hospitality Industry May Suffer From Foreign Visa Suspension

Jul 6, 2020
Downtown Whitefish, MT.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

After hosting exchange students from all over the world for the last 15 years, Whitefish resident Sue Moll will have a much quieter house this ski season.

Every year, Moll hosts foreign J-1 visa workers who travel to the U.S. to work at Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR) as part of a cultural exchange, but the resort won’t be able to hire those employees for the 2020-2021 season.

After the Trump administration suspended some foreign worker visas until at least the end of the year, including the J-1 visa, a number of businesses in the Flathead Valley’s hospitality industry will not be able to utilize foreign workers that they typically hire seasonally.

A ranger hands a visitor park information at one of Glacier National Park's entrances.
Glacier National Park (PD)

International travel to the U.S. is expected to decline due to flight restrictions and fears over the novel coronavirus. That downturn will take a big bite out of the U.S. travel and tourism economy. But, the virus could be boon to places like western Montana as Americans cancel their international trips in favor of something a little closer to home.

Tourists at the Apgar Visitor Center in Glacier National Park.
GlacierNPS (PD)

Montana saw a small decline in out-of-state visitors in 2018, but an increase in overall tourism spending.

Jeremy Sage is the assistant director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, which released the report.

Widlfire smoke fills the sky in Seeley Lake August  7, 2017.
Eric Whitney

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.