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Commerce Department Announces 2020 Montana Tourism Award Winners

Montana’s Annual Tourism Awards Recognize Contributions to State’s Tourism and Recreation Industries

Monday, May 18, 2020/Categories: Market MT, Choose Montana

2020 Film Friendly Community - Livingston

HELENA, Mont. – Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice today announced the winners of the 2020 Montana Tourism Awards, recognizing the significant contributions Montanans have made to the state’s tourism and recreation industries.

The annual Montana Tourism Awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that play an integral part in strengthening the state’s tourism and recreation industries and in sharing the message of Montana’s spectacular, unspoiled nature and vibrant, charming towns. Nominations were reviewed by a panel of industry peers.

“As we face this new challenging time together, it’s important to recognize some of the people and organizations that have made Montana’s tourism and recreation industries the economic drivers they have long been,” Montana Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “This year, we celebrate the 2020 Tourism Award winners in new ways and recognize that the strength of these people and industries is their ability to adapt as we look toward the future and remind visitors and residents alike that Montana is ‘Worth the Wait.’”

The 2020 Montana Tourism Award winners are:

Marysue Costello of West Yellowstone and Gayle Fisher of Great Falls are the co-winners of the Montana Tourism Legacy Award, which recognizes an individual with significant, life-long contributions to the tourism, hospitality, and recreation industries, identified as a leader and change agent among their peers, communities, and industry.

  • Marysue Costello is known as a pioneer and leader in tourism development in Montana, having served as a member of the original Tourism Advisory Council, developed the framework for the first set of regulations and procedures that guide the use of lodging facility tax revenue by tourism regions and Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) and that guide the oversight by the Tourism Advisory Council. Marysue led the formation of the West Yellowstone Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), making it the second in the state at the time.
  • Gayle Fisher started her career as the first director for the Central Montana tourism region, originally known as Russell Country. Over her nearly 40 years in the industry, many have described Gayle as a “tremendous mentor,” impressing others with her depth of knowledge, experience and history while also being forward thinking in her approach and open to new and progressive ways of reaching and inspiring potential visitors. Gayle has been, and will likely always be, a true ambassador and remarkable advocate for Montana tourism.

Diane Medler, executive director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau is the 2020 Tourism Ambassador of the Year. This award is an industry achievement for a Montana tourism professional recognized for significant positive contributions to tourism and recreation. Under Diane’s leadership, hotel revenues in the Kalispell area increased 11 percent per year for the past 10 years. She extends her leadership across the region and the entire state working with various partners to elevate the tourism and recreation industry.

Todd Hunkler of Butte is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Tourism Volunteer Award for his work on the Montana Folk Festival. Todd is the linchpin for the festival’s fundraising volunteer team and under his leadership, the amount of contributions continues to increase each year ensuring the viability of an event that draws thousands of visitors each year.

Montana tourism regions Glacier Country Tourism and Yellowstone Country Montana earned the 2020 Marketing Campaign of the Year for their “Glaciers to Geysers” marketing campaign. This joint venture combined imagery and creative elements to promote niche travel markets with stellar results.

Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy are recipients of the Montana Tourism Private-Public Collaboration Award for their work together to reconstruct the iconic Sperry Chalet. This award acknowledges the collaboration of private and public partners whose joint work enhances the Montana tourism industry.

Blue Heaven Ranch of Hays is the winner of the 2020 Heritage and Cultural Tourism Award, which recognizes an institution, individual or organization for contributions to the promotion and celebration of Montana’s authentic culture or natural history. Blue Heaven Ranch is a family-owned business that collaborates with various partners, both private and public to extend the impact of visitors’ stays by contributing to community improvement while educating visitors about the culture and history.

Livingston is this year’s Film Friendly Community, selected by the Montana Film Office for the community’s support of the filming of “Robert the Bruce.” Film is a powerful medium for attracting visitors to a destination. From lodging to crew and even locally sourced equipment, Montana communities provide tremendous support for film productions, and in return, benefit from the significant economic impact.


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