It’s no wonder visitors flock to Gallatin County and nearby Yellowstone National Park – the scenery is spectacular, the outdoor recreation is fantastic, and in recent years, airline service has increased significantly, making Bozeman one of the most easily accessible mountain towns in the west.
Visitation is at an all-time high, with Yellowstone recording record numbers. The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport set a record in 2021, with 1.94 million passengers coming through the airport. There are now nonstop flights to 23 major cities across the United States, which is a benefit for residents and visitors.
It means plenty. In 2019, the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana reported non-resident spending at nearly $1 billion in Gallatin County. Almost 1.4 million people spent at least one night within the Bozeman city limits. These are out-of-state dollars being invested in our community.
Of the $1 billion, the top expenditures were:
The trickle-down effects of this cash infusion are tremendous. If we were to remove that money from our economy, we would not be the attraction we are today.
Not only is this influx of cash into our local economy vital to the livelihood of our residents and businesses, if Montana were to pass a sales tax, the revenue generated would also help cover costs of infrastructure, which in turn, could relieve property owners from increased taxes.
A 3% tax on non-essential items results in $30 million in revenue to Gallatin County. Most visitors are willing to pay for this. A 2016 Montana Destination Brand Research Study by Destination Analysts found that the lack of taxes in Montana was not driving people to visit Montana. It would benefit Montanans to take a hard look at how implementing a sales tax could stabilize several issues across Montana.
Tourism is one of Montana’s leading industries. Montana Business Quarterly reported that in 2020, tourism directly supported 30,750 jobs, $776 million in employee compensation, and $212.7 million in state and local taxes. Direct benefits aside, as more and more people discover Montana, more investment opportunities arise. As a result, our local economy grows, creating more jobs and opportunities for the local community. I think we can all agree that is a good thing for Bozeman.