There's no doubt about it, Montana is a real hit with out-of-state visitors. A new study released recently by the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research reveals a huge percentage of unsolicited comment cards contained nearly universal enjoyment of the state.

Institute director Norman Nickerson said superlatives could be found on almost every card.

"If you were to count, and I did, all the times they said 'love,' such as 'I love Montana,' 'I love the state,' 'I'd love to come back' it's amazing," Nickerson said. "That word was used over 300 times in 1,100 responses. They kept mentioning things like they couldn't believe how beautiful and how well-kept it is, and how friendly the people are. Everything we, the people who live here, think about our state, they're saying yep, touche, it is that way."

Nickerson said there were a few criticisms, as well.

"Many said the same things we do, such as they don't like road construction or some of the potholes, and they do have some concern about some of the rest areas, such as there weren't enough of them, or they may have been old and not very well-kept," Nickerson said.

One surprising reoccurring criticism came from out of state 'geo-travelers.'

"We have a group of people that the state tourism agency is promoting to, and they are called the geo-travelers, and they care very much about the land," Nickerson said. "Because they care about the land and the environment, they're concerned about the lack of recycling opportunities in Montana. They suggest Montana officials put recycling containers at the hotels, the gas stations - we don't see the recycling bins anywhere. Where are they?"

Nickerson said Montana doesn't have the transportation infrastructure to have a state-wide recycling program, and that is a problem for some out-of-state visitors.That being said, the overall response from out-of-state-visitors is positive.

"It's one of those good news things, where they say they love Montana, they're going to spend money, and they're definitely going to come back," Nickerson said.

University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research Director Norma Nickerson:


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