Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

National park visitors boost Montana’s tourism stats

October 19, 2009, 8:37 am

Montana's summer tourism season wasn't as bad as expected - and was far better than in surrounding states and most of the rest of the country.

It helped that visitor numbers at the major national parks in Montana soared above those for the 2008 season.

Visitation was bolstered by locals vacationing closer to home and by publicity sparked by filmmaker Ken Burns' PBS documentary featuring the nation's parks as "America's Best Idea," said Betsy Baumgart, administrator of the Montana Promotions Division.

Yellowstone Park is on track to break previous visitation records. For the first time, more than 3 million people were counted in the first nine months of the year. Numbers were up 8.7 percent over the same period in 2008.

Year-to-date figures at the end of September showed 13.4 percent more visitors to Glacier Park than last year. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area welcomed 19.5 percent more people. The latest figures for Little Bighorn Battlefield, through the end of August, showed a 9.8 percent increase.

A troubled economy, fraught with high unemployment and job insecurity, did put a damper on the number of travelers statewide, and probably affected how much they spent, tourism officials say. But it could have been worse.

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