The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana estimates 10.9 million nonresident travelers spent $3.9 billion in Montana in 2014, according to a recently completed study.

Institute Director Norma Nickerson said the actual number of visitors was down, but the amount they spent in Montana was slightly higher.

"2014 was actually a very good year, but the funny thing was we actually decreased one percent in out-of-state travelers but their spending went up," Nickerson said. "In a way, that's a good thing that the people who are coming are spending more money. We have smaller group sizes coming to Montana, but more couples visiting the state."

Nickerson said the sheer numbers revealed in the study pose an impressive picture for Montana.

"They actually dropped about $3.9 billion in the state of Montana in 2014," she said. "That's almost 11 million total travelers who came to the state. Those travelers can be anything from coming here for vacation to visiting you and me, to shopping or business or just passing through."

Nickerson confirmed the obvious fact that July, August and September were the most popular months to visit the state.

"One of the big takeaways from the study for business owners and entrepreneurs is that we do have seasons of people coming in here, and they do spend a lot of money while they're here," Nickerson said. "That helps the economy, that helps those business people out there to plan for those seasons to build their businesses."

Nickerson said one part of the study that was especially heartening was to see that a large majority of visitors said they were well treated in Montana.

"90 percent of the people say they're going to return in the next two years," she said. "There will always be people who say this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and they just don't envision coming back, but in general, they're going to come back to Montana."