Tourist Survey Highlights Outsiders’ Positive Perspectives of Montana

By Beacon Staff

A survey of nonresident visitors to Montana found that 89 percent expressed positive reviews of the state and their visit, according to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, which conducted the survey.

More than 1,100 nonresidents submitted comments in the annual survey conducted by ITRR. General positive comments were written most often, and ranged from exclaiming how friendly the people in Montana are to the beauty and open space, and a desire to visit again, according to ITRR.

Nonresident visitors were quick to point out travel-related issues they may have experienced. Some said the roads were in great condition while others thought the roads needed improvement. Better signage on Montana roads was mentioned, but with caution.

One visitor wrote, “I always enjoy Montana and my time spent. As a tourist and retired truck driver I can appreciate the appropriate amount of both road signs and advertising signs without having the landscape cluttered, i.e. driving the billboard alley.”

Many nonresidents were once Montana residents and felt compelled to write their love of the state.

Others needed to point out that coming back to live in Montana was their desire, but it was difficult for them because of cost-of-living expenses, particularly in the Flathead area.

Most of the negative comments about Montana related to the lack of recycling opportunities around the state. Many visitors arrived from cities and states where recycling is a way of life, such as Washington, California and Oregon, and they expect and want those same services available where they travel, according to ITRR.

According to Norma Nickerson, director of ITRR, unsolicited comments from visitors provide an insight into what remains in the minds of the visitor upon their return home.

“When we see so many positive statements written about the state, it is more likely that word-of-mouth ‘advertising’ will benefit Montana,” Nickerson said. “Tourism is a huge contributor to Montana’s economy with over $3.27 billion spent by nonresidents in the state last year. A good experience by visitors encourages a healthy state economy.”

On the other side, however, Nickerson says it is important to listen to the suggestions and concerns visitors have about the state.

“Usually, visitors are not telling us things we don’t already know,” she said. “It’s just a matter of identifying those things we need to improve upon, be it recycling, road conditions or the waiter who was rude, and implement solutions. In the end, we all benefit.”

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