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Survey: Growing Number Of Montanans Say Tourists Overcrowding State

A 2017 map showing Montana's six tourism regions.
Montana Department of Commerce
A 2017 map showing Montana's six tourism regions.

A rising, though still relatively small, number of Montanans hold negative perceptions toward tourism, according to an update to a University of Montana report released Friday.

UM’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research says survey data from November and December indicate a majority of Montana residents believe the overall benefits of tourism outweigh the negative impacts and that tourism promotion by the state benefits their local economies.

But Jeremy Sage, ITRR’s Interim Director, says the most recent survey, along with two from the summer, show a shift in how residents think about visitors.

“For the first time in years, we’ve started to see some steady increase of negative perceptions about tourism,” Sage said.

Sage said that the respondents who disagreed with “overall benefits of tourism outweigh the negative impacts” increased from 8 percent in 2019 to 12 percent last year.

More residents this summer also agreed rather than disagreed that the state was becoming overcrowded because of tourists. ITRR says that has not happened since 1995.

The new report shows negative perceptions of overcrowding stemmed most heavily from residents who live in counties near Yellowstone National Park and the northwest region of Montana.