A report by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana revealed that summer wildfires and the smoke that blanketed much of the state may have cost over $240 million in tourism dollars.

Associate Director of the ITRR and economist Jeremy Sage said 2017 was headed for a banner year until summer fires took off.

“We had great numbers going into the summer but then the smoke hit and that depressed things a little bit,” said Sage. “Overall, visitors spent about $3.36 billion overall, and about a quarter of that was spent on gasoline and diesel. Another 20 percent was spent on restaurants and 13 percent on hotels. Our total for the year was about 12.5 million visitors and our summertime was about 47 percent of that total, so about 5.8 million in the summer which is July through September. Compared to the year before, we’re up a couple of percentage points.”

One of the key feedback points from visitors is how much they appreciated the fact that hotels and motels provided information on where they could go to escape the wildfire smoke.

“Overall, they were quite positive about the way they were treated,” he said. “Many people thought the service providers had a pretty solid understanding of where they could go to get out of the smoke and still recreate. There were still quite a few people that said they were affected by the smoke, but were still able to find other places in Montana to go.”

Travelers directly supported nearly $2.8 billion in economic activity for Montana and almost 39,000 state jobs, as well as indirectly supporting an additional $1.9 billion in economic activity and more than 14,500 jobs.

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