Billings, Mont. – Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Commerce Director Tara Rice joined community leaders, business owners and local policymakers in Billings today to discuss innovative ways to enhance tourism and strengthen local economies across eastern Montana, as part of the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative.
The initiative is a collaboration among the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development at Commerce and communities across eastern Montana that was formed in response to community leaders seeking to encourage long-term economic growth.
“It’s collaborative efforts like this – that start with ideas from local community members, and bring together agency officials, local policymakers, business owners and more – that make for good governance,” said Lt. Gov. Cooney. “Through staff expertise, marketing, grants, and access to new information, this initiative is going to work in so many ways to support the goals set out by local communities for eastern Montana tourism.”
Also at today’s meeting, the Office of Tourism and Business Development released a new research report that provides a more in-depth understanding of the opportunities and challenges for eastern Montana communities’ ongoing efforts to increase tourism in the region. The findings in the report are based on input from communities in 23 counties collected during 14 listening sessions held over the last year, which were organized through the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative.
Specifically, the report included innovative ideas from community members for how to enhance tourism across eastern Montana, including:
- Developing eastern Montana’s agritourism, hunting and fishing assets
- Creating education-based youth and family programs
- Promoting travel itineraries and additional tourism trails (like the Dino Trail)
- Utilizing peer-to-peer services during peak travel times
- Developing Native American tourism assets
- Building tourism infrastructure to support increased visitation
“Working with communities across eastern Montana to implement their ideas for how to grow local tourism over the long-term is a key part of continuing to grow the regional economy, as well,” Commerce Director Rice said. “We look forward to supporting the region’s goals of strengthening tourism amenities and creating vibrant communities in which families want to live and travelers want to visit for years to come.”
The Office of Tourism and Business Development at Commerce is investing $1.3 million in regional marketing, grants, staff expertise and access to new data to support the region’s goals of enhancing marketing efforts, strengthening tourism amenities and creating vibrant communities where families want to live.
The Office of Tourism and Business Development featured some of eastern Montana’s tourism assets, including upland bird hunting, in targeted regional marketing campaigns beginning last summer. And earlier this month, eight communities received funding awards totaling $365,250 through the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative Grant Program to build or enhance existing tourism infrastructure, raise awareness of eastern Montana as a tourist destination and support sustainable economic development in the communities and nearby areas.
Additional awards will be announced later this year.