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Researchers: Fires Cost Montana $240M in Visitor Spending

12.5 million out-of-staters visited Montana last year and spent $3.36 billion

MISSOULA — University of Montana researchers say the 2017 fire season likely cost Montana about $240 million in visitor spending.

The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research said Tuesday that 12.5 million out-of-staters visited Montana last year and spent $3.36 billion.

Economist Jeremy Sage says visitor spending in 2017 was higher than 2016, but could have been more if the effects of last summer’s wildfires hadn’t led people to change, shorten or cancel their plans.

Visitation to Montana was up 1 percent in 2017 and overall spending increased by nearly 11 percent.

The largest visitor expense was nearly $769 million on gasoline and diesel fuel, followed by $667 million on bars and restaurants and $449 million on hotels and motels.

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