The Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research has published the results of a study on non-resident tourism in the state last year. According to Researcher Kara Grau, it was a good year.

“Overall it was a good year for tourism in terms of visitation and total amount spent,” Grau said. “We had an increase of just 1% in the total number of visitors. It went up to almost 12.5 million individual travelers, but even though it was just a 1% increase in the number of travelers, it was a 10.8% increase in spending.”

There was actually a drop in the amount of money spent on retail sales though, Grau says people appear to be spending their money differently.

“Overall their expenditures on outfitter and guide was higher that their expenditures on retail sales,” Grau said. “That is a pretty new thing. Generally retail sales are higher up. I do find that interesting. It seems to be following with the trend that people are more interested in buying experiences than they are in buying things.”

Grau says that although it was a good year for tourism in Montana, it could have been an amazing year if the state wasn’t hit by an intense fire season. She says It is likely that Montana missed out on 800,000 tourists and up to 240 million dollars in non-resident spending because of the fires and smoke.