Peter Christ, co-owner of Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen and Wine Bar, plans to staff his Red Lodge restaurant for a big summer.
Every aspect of Eastern Montana’s economy feels the force of the Bakken energy boom, including the hospitality and tourism industry.
Al Sargent, chairman of Hardin’s Little Bighorn Days Committee, can barely contain his enthusiasm.
Just how well is Montana’s tourism industry doing in the middle of a year replete with economic uncertainty?
Before the year is out, tourism experts say, 10.5 million out-of-state visitors will journey to or through Montana, dropping somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion. About 2 million of those visitors will hit Billings and about half of them will spend a night here, according to a study c…
Gas prices steadily climbing toward $4 a gallon may mean that the 10.5 million or more tourists expected to visit Montana this year will spend less on souvenirs and restaurants and book cheaper hotels.
It almost defies logic.
The first half of Montana’s 2011 tourism season reflected the general misery of a spring gone miserably awry.
When summer weather finally arrived in late June, it took a few days before weather-weary Montanans could trust that their travel plans would not be spoiled by cool temperatures and soggy campgrounds.
Gas prices already escalating toward summer highs between $3.50 and $4 a gallon in Montana are the great unknown in an otherwise optimistic summer tourism forecast.
All indications but one — rapidly rising gasoline prices — bode well for a resurgence of Montana's tourism industry in 2011.