Tourism Awards Presented at Annual Conference

Alyson Eggart HELENA, Mont. – Montana Department of Commerce leadership and staff on Monday evening joined attendees of the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation in Missoula to congratulate finalists and winners of the 2024 Montana Tourism Awards.

The awards celebrate the outstanding work of the communities, businesses, organizations and individuals who represent Montana's tourism industry while increasing its economic impact for Montana residents.

“This conference is a great platform for Montana’s top tourism professionals, nonprofit organizations, community leaders and others to share information and ideas to help grow one of our state’s largest industries,” said Paul Green, Director of the Montana Department of Commerce. “On behalf of all of us at the Montana Department of Commerce, congratulations to our Tourism Award winners for their excellence in sharing what makes our state so inspiring to visitors year after year.”

The awards were divided into seven different categories and presented to the winners by Bozeman-based tourism photographer, Andy Austin.

Award categories and winners:

Tourism Destination of the Year: The Tourism Destination of the Year Award recognizes outstanding achievements to advance tourism through marketing, product development, destination events and activities or compelling experiences in the tourism industry.
Winner: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Great Falls
Consistently ranked on Trip Advisor as the number one place to visit in Great Falls, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center welcomes approximately 50,000 visitors annually from all parts of the globe. The facility offers multimedia presentations, interactive exhibits and guided tours to introduce and share the comprehensive Lewis and Clark story.

Heritage and Cultural Tourism: The Heritage and Cultural Tourism Award recognizes an institution, individual or organization for contributions to the promotion and celebration of Montana’s authentic and unique culture or natural history as an important attraction for visitors and Montana residents.
Winner: Friends of Fort Owen, Stevensville
Friends of Fort Owen is a non-profit organization that partners with Montana State Parks to build a collective capacity to save, restore, maintain, develop, enhance and interpret Fort Owen State Park and its associated sites and artifacts for future generations.

Tribal Tourism: The Tribal Tourism Award recognizes individuals, Tribal governments, businesses or organizations that have demonstrated excellence in furthering Montana’s Indian Country Tribal Tourism promotion or extraordinary achievements.
Winner: Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, Donnie Wetzel
The Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame provides recognition for native youth and communities who are considered legends in Montana sports. The Hall of Fame looks at high school, college and professional athletes, as well as coaches and teams from all athletic venues with documented accomplishments. Montana sporting events entertain audiences, promote year-round travel and benefit local economies.

Marketing Campaign of the Year: The Marketing Campaign of the Year Award honors an outstanding tourism-related marketing campaign executed within the past calendar year. For this award, the marketing campaign is defined as a series of marketing activities, channels and methods that produce a measurable result.
Winner: Visit Billings - “Outsiders” 2023 creative and media campaign
Visit Billings received this award for its “Outsiders” 2023 creative and media campaign that increased awareness of tourism opportunities in the Billings area. Its success was measured by paid media performance, web traffic and website engagement and conversion.

Tourism Ambassador of the Year: The Tourism Ambassador of the Year Award acknowledges and celebrates significant commitment demonstrated by an individual or a group of individuals who exemplify the positive impact of the tourism industry and who go above and beyond to ensure visitors' experiences are positive and worth repeating.
Winners: Dale and Kathy Galland - Prairie Unique
Dale and Kathy Galland, owners of the Prairie Unique store, function as the unofficial visitor information center for the community of Terry. They know not just Terry, but all of Montana, and give detailed information to visitors about “the next stop” and the “don’t miss” locations along their travels.

Film Community of the Year: The Film Community of the Year Award nominees and winners are selected by Commerce’s Montana Film Office based on their assistance and support of a specific project/projects filmed in their areas.
Winner: Livingston Chamber of Commerce
The Livingston Chamber of Commerce and community continued their support of the film industry with the films “Rust,” “Outlaw Posse” and the upcoming “Unholy Trinity.” The Livingston area hosted the filming of “Rancho Deluxe” in 1974, and now celebrates 50 years of creative moviemaking in Park County

Excellence in Film and Culture: The Excellence in Cinema and Cultural Heritage Award is a prestigious recognition bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to the film and arts industry while also promoting and preserving cultural heritage. This award celebrates those who skillfully blend cinematic artistry with cultural narratives, bringing stories, languages and traditions to a broader audience.
Winner: Lily Gladstone
Lily Gladstone is presented with this award due to her efforts to use the power of cinema to bridge cultural divides, promote inclusivity and advocate for the preservation of cultural legacies. Lily has not only excelled in her acting craft, but has also served as a cultural ambassador, ensuring that the voices and stories of native communities are heard and celebrated on the world stage.

According to a recent report by the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR), in 2023, more than 12.5 million people visited Montana and spent an estimated $5.45 billion. In addition, the report shows that there are over 48,000 Montana jobs supported by out-of-state tourism.

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation is hosted each year by the Montana Department of Commerce.

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