BILLINGS – Montana has had a good tourism year despite high gas prices and a struggling economy, a state tourism official says.
“The majority of our areas of the state said they had good business all the way through September,” Sarah Lawlor, communications director for the state Office of Tourism told the Billings Gazette.
The Montana Department of Revenue reported that bed tax numbers rose 14.1 percent in the first quarter compared to last year and 2.7 percent in the second quarter. Smith Travel Research, which monitors the lodging industry, said that Montana in July and August had the second-highest lodging occupancy in the nation at more than 85 percent, behind only North Dakota.
Experts said an energy boom in eastern Montana and an oil spill in the Yellowstone River that brought in workers to the Billings area accounted for some of that. Lawlor noted that areas not drawing energy or cleanup workers also did well.
“Great Falls had a phenomenal year,” she said.
She said some of the tourism numbers in the state’s northern and central counties got a boost from Canadians enjoying favorable currency exchange rates. But she also noted that advertising campaigns in Chicago, Minneapolis and Seattle produced results.