The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research is out with its 2012 Economic Review of Montana's travel industry, and it has good news for tourism in Montana.

"The take home message is that we're up 15 percent in non-resident spending in this state over 2011," said institute director Norman Nickerson. "It's a big percent even though there was only a 2 percent increase in the number of visitors. They were definitely spending more money when they were here this past year."

Spending was up for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a set of new laws in Canada that allow larger tax-free purchases of American goods. Nickerson said low exchange rates for those traveling from out of country also had a huge impact.

The economic impact of non-resident tourists is estimated at around 3.33 billion for 2011. In 2012, preliminary estimates put the economic impact of non-resident tourists at over 4 billion dollars.

Norma Nickerson