Updates + Resources

Photo: MTFJ Flathead

The destination stewardship strategy provides the community and tourism industry with a 10-year action plan for responsibly stewarding our destination and promoting the economic health of our region. Reports from the process are posted detailing the insights gained from our research and community engagement.

Destination Stewardship Plan FINAL - as of October 11, 2022


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT UPDATES

January 8, 2024

Jenna Boltz, Director of Community Engagement, continues participating in a range of community forums, from forest and recreation planning to community visioning sessions, chamber meetings, and virtual workshops. Leveraging the information gathered at these meetings, Western Montana’s Glacier Country works to identify resources that may assist that community or organization in tackling their initiatives.

Jenna's participation in Leadership Montana’s class of 2024 has established key connections to industry leaders. The program highlights top industries in Montana and the many issues and opportunities Montanans face. These insights provide context to our Stewardship Plan and assist in fostering collaborative growth and problem-solving across our region. 

We are hosting a series of community meetings in each of the eight counties we serve. These meetings will provide information on the visitor economy specific to your community and give residents a chance to voice opinions about impacts and opportunities. Your participation allows us to have a responsible and community-centric approach to our stewardship efforts. Contact us with any questions at GCstewardship@glaciermt.com

October 1, 2023

Jenna Boltz, Director of Community Engagement, enjoyed spending the past several months in our communities, continuing to learn about their priorities while watching for resources that align and can support their initiatives. We've shared over $20,000 in funding opportunities with nonprofit groups in our region, and we continually assist with data research for projects and grant applications to help community partners secure funding.

Cut Bank was recently awarded a $7,000 grant from our Cooperative Marketing Project Match Program for their community branding project, which aims to market their destination to visitors better and to attract a talented workforce. This project is part of the larger Reimagining Rural Project, which is a program spearheaded by MSU Extension to provide small towns with opportunities and resources to shape their future. This project will set a strong foundation for future projects within the community. We also just committed $15,000 for the Clark Fork Coalition’s River Ambassador Program. This project will inspire more community members and local businesses to become actively involved in protecting and restoring the Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Bitterroot rivers. Together, we can help preserve Western Montana’s rivers and protect the investments in river health for the long haul.

Glacier Country Tourism’s community engagement program seeks to enhance and develop avenues for citizens to engage with Glacier Country Tourism to ensure they are informed, feel heard and become involved as we collaborate to find solutions. Feel free to contact us at gcstewardship@glaciermt.com to share feedback, resources and news.

July 1, 2023 Jenna Boltz, our Director of Community Engagement, has been actively visiting communities throughout Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Her role involves connecting nonprofit organizations, business owners and residents while listening to community members' ideas on how to protect recreational and cultural assets. Meetings and listening sessions have been conducted with various groups, including the Clark Fork Coalition, Mission West Community Development Partners, and Blackfeet Nation Tribal Tourism supporters. These sessions have resulted in a network of connections and growing awareness of existing and proposed stewardship-related projects that address issues like experiential degradation, cultural preservation, collaboration opportunities, and more. Through ongoing engagement, Glacier Country Tourism is discovering community-driven programs and projects that align with our stewardship plan. This allows us to learn and share information about priorities, facilitate information exchange, and collaborate on stewardship initiatives that positively impact the communities involved. Glacier Country Tourism plans to highlight the remarkable work being done by these entities. Businesses and individuals interested in connecting with Jenna can do so at Jenna@glaciermt.com.

April 1, 2023 Glacier Country Tourism’s new Director of Community Engagement, Jenna Boltz, has been strategically engaging with over 50 organizations and associations across our region, listening to opportunities and exploring how we can help make a positive impact in our communities. Through these discussions, Jenna has identified and discovered needs such as trail system development, river access improvements, wayfinding needs, and creating ways to highlight our incredible culture and artistry. As Glacier Country Tourism focuses on healthy destination stewardship, there are so many exciting possibilities that can enhance our recreational offerings and preserve quality of life for residents.


REPORTS

June, 2023: A Rural Capacity Map - To help identify communities where investments in staffing and expertise are needed to support infrastructure and climate resilience projects, Headwaters Economics

June 27, 2023: Report: Towns need tax, policy tweaks to coexist with tourists, Joshua Murdock, Missoulian

  • Report by Headwaters Economics

May, 2023: The Amenity Trap: How high-amenity communities can avoid being loved to death, Headwaters Economics

March 2023: The Outdoor Recreation Economy by State, Headwaters Economics

Destination Stewardship Stakeholder Survey Report

Destination Stewardship Resident Survey Reports


RESEARCH

Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research 2021 Data on Nonresident Visitor Spend by County

Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research Data on Nonresident Visitor Characteristics by County


DESTINATION STEWARDSHIP NEWS COVERAGE

November 17, 2021: Tourism, visitors to Glacier County: Tell Glacier Country what you think at virtual meeting Nov. 19, LeAnne Kavanaugh, Cut Bank Pioneer Press

November 11, 2021: Tourism Stewardship Plan discussed, Nathan Bourne, Seeley Swan Pathfinder

November 10, 2021: Glacier Country Tourism aims to use ‘Destination Stewardship’ when promoting Western Montana, Nathan Boddy, Bitterroot Star

November 10, 2021: Can Glacier Country achieve ‘Destination Stewardship?’, Whitney England, Hungry Horse News

November 10, 2021: Glacier Country Tourism shifts gears to create plan aimed at managing growing tourism, Whitney England, Whitefish Pilot

“We must now begin to measure success against the overall wellbeing of our destinations,” Friede said. “It’s more about how to be thoughtful about the quality of the visitor while balancing that with the quality of life of the resident. That’s where this major process we’re doing right now comes into play.”

November 10, 2021: Sanders Co. residents: Tourists are welcome for brief time, Scott Shindledecker, Clark Fork Valley Press

November 9, 2021: Community members participate in long-term tourism planning, Summer Goddard, Valley Journal

Friede says, “We will be looking at how to turn challenges into opportunities, how to maximize growth to our economy, how to protect our way of life and the lands we love and how to strengthen our communities for generations to come.”

November 9, 2021: ‘Don’t Come Here’ — An Intentionally Snarky Tagline — And More Destination Strategies, Laurie Jo Miller Farr, The Travel Vertical

November 6, 2021: In an Effort to Tame Tourism, Stakeholders Seek to Define 'Destination Stewardship', Skye Lucas, Flathead Beacon

Business leaders and community stakeholders from throughout the Flathead Valley met with representatives of Glacier Country Tourism (GCT) this week to discuss a new strategy aimed at reining in traditional marketing campaigns in favor of a more sustainable approach, which is geared toward creating “destination stewards” in a region overrun by visitation.

Dubbing it the “Destination Stewardship Strategy,” GCT kicked off the campaign at a Nov. 4 meeting, which marked the first step in a 10-year collaborative partnership between the tourism arm and other key community sectors. The strategy marks a shift away from destination marketing and instead aims to manage aging infrastructure, overcrowding and impacts on the local lifestyle.

November 3, 2021: Glacier Country holds tourism meetings, Whitefish Pilot

November 1, 2021: Glacier Country Tourism to Host Town Hall, Skye Lucas, Flathead Beacon

The 1987 state mandated Lodging Facility Sales and Use Tax (4%), commonly referred to as the “Bed Tax,” raises money for the Department of Commerce to spend on tourism promotion. However, Glacier Country is among the first tourism organizations in the U.S. to dedicate resources for a Destination Stewardship Plan.

“We’re very excited about this new approach,” Friede said. “We’re not doing this just for the tourists. Our ultimate customer is the resident of Montana.”

October 29, 2021: Destination Stewardship kicks off tourism town halls in Hamilton, Perry Backus, Ravalli Republic

When Glacier Country Tourism first opened its doors in 1985, the travel industry in Montana hardly existed.

Fast forward to now and tourism is one of the top two industries in the state, bringing in billions of dollars annually.

That growth has come with its own set of challenges, including aging infrastructure, overcrowding, affordable housing, workforce shortages and impacts on the lifestyle of local residents.

Glacier Country Tourism — western Montana’s regional destination marketing organization — aims to address those challenges while working to sustain the state’s growing tourism industry through its new Destination Stewardship Strategy initiative.

October 28, 2021: Engagement sought to create Destination Stewardship Plan, Andi Bourne, Seeley Swan Pathfinder

October 27, 2021: Glacier County residents asked to participate in tourism Town Hall meetings, surveys, Cut Bank Pioneer Press

“Tourism continues to play a significant role in the future prosperity of our region,” says Racene Friede, President & CEO of Glacier Country Tourism. “However, we must be thoughtful about how the quality of the visitor experience can be balanced with the quality of life for residents; about the types of visitors who would provide maximum financial value to our local communities while having the optimal social and environmental impact, and how we can responsibly grow our tourism industry for the benefit of all in our communities,” she says.

October 27, 2021: Events to explore balancing tourism, quality of life, Lake County Leader

July 28, 2021: From Destination Marketing to Destination Stewardship, Maggie Dresser, Flathead Beacon

To address the inevitable influx, Glacier Country collaborated with other tourism bureaus, including Explore Whitefish and Discover Kalispell, to focus on destination stewardship while partnering with the national Recreate Responsibly initiative, which encourages messages like leave no trace, know before you go and wildfire safety.

NEWS OF INTEREST

August 9, 2023: The Anti-California - How Montana performed a housing miracle, Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic

In 2015, a physical therapist named Nathan Dugan moved to Whitefish, Montana, and fell in love with the place. How could you not? The glaciers, the pine air, the small-town feel. Whitefish was always expensive: When he first got there, Dugan camped on and off for a month before he found an affordable home. But it got far more expensive during the pandemic, when wealthy retirees and digital nomads flooded the tiny town’s tiny housing market. Out-of-staters were making cash offers on homes, sight unseen. Airbnbs started going for Bay Area prices. Rentals dried up. This has become a familiar story across America, where the housing crisis has gotten so severe that even rural communities in northern Montana are feeling the pinch.