MISSOULA – Montana visitors who bought Montana-made products, Montana-grown food or who used local services in 2015 spent, on average, about $185 more in the state each day than visitors who did not purchase local products and services, according to a new study.

A recent analysis of nonresident visitor spending by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana found that in the first three quarters of 2015, visitors spent an average of $147 daily. However, once the visitors were grouped into whether they purchased local products or services on their trip, significant differences emerged. Visitors who reported buying local goods and services spent an average $296 a day, while those who did not make local purchases averaged about $112 a day.
Visitors who made local purchases spent more money in every spending category except gasoline/diesel. Further analysis showed that this group was more likely to be on vacation or visiting friends and relatives compared to the non-local purchasing group who was more likely to be passing through the state. 
Sixteen percent of Montana’s visitors reported spending money on local products and services during the first three quarters of 2015. The products purchased most frequently include food such as huckleberry items, baked goods and candy, followed by locally brewed beer and alcohol from local distilleries. 
While visitors were up 8 percent in 2015, overall spending decreased about the same amount. Researchers attribute much of that spending decrease to lower gas prices and fewer Canadians traveling to Montana because of the strong U.S. dollar.
Despite the overall decrease in the amount spent by travelers from 2014 to 2015, spending in retail categories, which include “Made in Montana” products and services, increased in 2015, which UM researchers say is a significant indication that nonresident visitors are interested in purchasing items and services they can’t find elsewhere, or products that can “bring them back” to Montana after their visit to the state.