Montana Public Radio

Racene Friede

Rental car desks at an airport
iStock

The tourism industry on Glacier National Park’s west side expects a record-breaking season this summer, but there’s concern a nationwide rental car shortage could dampen the comeback of visitors flying into northwest Montana.

The outdoor recreation economy is the second largest sector of Montana’s economy, generating $7.1B in annual consumer spending. 71,000 Montanans are employed in the sector, making its performance essential to the state’s full economic recovery. 

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on outdoor recreation and tourism? What response within the industry has been successful? What does 2021 look like for this essential part of the Montana economy? Learn more now on Can Do.

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.

Montana's outdoor recreation activities.
Outdoor Recreation And Montana's Economy report, Headwaters Economics.

A growing set of business owners, non-profits and agencies in Montana are trying to expand what we think of when we talk about the economic value of the outdoors here.

Marne Hayes is the executive director for Business for Montana’s Outdoors, a group that advocates for preserving Montana’s outdoor heritage. She says Montana itself — its rivers, forests and wide open spaces — offers a competitive advantage for attracting new businesses and a talented workforce to Montana.