Commerce Announces $1 Million in Grant Funding for 19 Eastern Montana Tourism Projects

Girl Viewing the Montana Prairie HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Commerce announced today it has awarded $1 million in grant funding to 19 tourism entities to strengthen and diversify local and regional economies by promoting Eastern Montana as a tourism destination. The grant funding is through Brand MT’s Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative (EMI).

“We want to showcase the scenic, diverse beauty and the unique communities that make Eastern Montana so special,” said Scott Osterman, Director of the Montana Department of Commerce. “This initiative helps Eastern Montana grantees invest in tourism infrastructure, promote long-term sustainability in growth policy and community development.”

The EMI was developed by Commerce’s Brand MT Division in 2019 to help improve tourism’s economic impact in specific Eastern Montana counties, while also drawing tourists away from areas of the state that have experienced overcrowding during the summer months.

The objective of the initiative was to gain perspectives on the reasons for bed tax decline in Eastern Montana, document opinions on Eastern Montana’s best tourism assets and ideal audiences, and generate ideas and strategies to increase tourism and bed tax collections. Through extensive research, the EMI helped identify Montana communities that needed a tourism boost and had the infrastructure to support more visitors.

The following entities received Eastern Montana Initiative Tourism Grants:

“The EMI granting process has been crucial to the continued growth and success of ZooMontana. The ability for us to bring in a sloth has exponentially grown our reach, with thousands of new visitors coming in to learn about and see this incredible animal,” said Jeff Ewelt, ZooMontana Executive Director. “The recent addition of a webcam within the habitat has been viewed by millions around the world, helping to spread our conservation work, while putting Eastern Montana on the map. None of this would have been possible without Brand MT and its important Eastern Montana Initiative.”

In 2018-2019, 14 Eastern Montana communities were awarded a total of $673,079 through a competitive grant process. Funding for EMI grants comes from the 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax, more commonly known as the “Bed Tax,” which is collected from guests of lodging facilities across the state including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, short-term vacation rentals, resorts and campgrounds. In Fiscal Year 2022, more than $56 million was collected in Bed Tax revenue in Montana.

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