I supposed you've noticed the stories we've had about crowded roadways in both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. You've also tried to reserve your favorite campground spot this summer, and have discovered that you were about two months (or more) late in attempting to reserve that perfect campsite...in almost every Montana campground. Then, there's the reservation system for U.S. Forest Service facilities throughout the state. Good luck.

Often, you're competing with other Montanans. In this crush of summer fun-seekers, the number of non-residents last year was not quite as high as the year before COVID-19 upset the applecart. Still, it was impressive.

The University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation reported about 12.5 million non-residents visited the state last year, which is a 12.5 percent increase from 2020. That's a higher growth rate than any other state, according to researchers.

Almost half those people were in travel groups, with many of them waiting until late summer and early fall to visit the Big Sky. Jeremy Sage of the institute said, "Overall for 2021, slightly larger group sizes, longer lengths of stay and higher daily average spending per group resulted in the significant increase in spending compared to previous years."

What did they spend money on? Fuel is at the top of the list, followed by restaurant and tavern costs, including those ever-popular breweries. The institute estimates over 47,000 jobs were supported by $1.3 billion of labor income from the out-of-state visitors.

And with the current reduced COVID restrictions, you can expect even more folks discovering the Treasure State this year. You can see the UM report at their website.

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