The outlook in early April was bleak as the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research conducted surveys of travel and tourism related businesses throughout the state regarding the COVID 19 pandemic.

Director Norma Nickerson provided these details.

“For June, people are hesitant about canceling at this point,” said Nickerson. “July and further is a little more promising, however there have been a lot of cancellations already the business people around Montana where folks are very nervous, or they’re thinking that they can reschedule if they’re able to.”

Nickerson said the federal government’s programs to help small businesses are tailored for those with up to 500 employees, but Montana’s tourism businesses are much, much smaller.

“A lot of Montana tourism is small businesses,” she said. “When I say small, it can be five or less or ten or less, not what the government says are small businesses with 500 or less, that’s not Montana. We are small ma and pa businesses around here, so the idea for them to have to take out a loan and then maybe have to pay it back for a lot of these small folks, they just can’t go into debt any further.”

Nickerson said this summer could be the final season for some of Montana’s travel and tourism related businesses.

“There’s a lot of worry about survival now,” she said. We got 919 responses to that survey, which is tremendous. We only gave them 48 hours to answer and they did. Three percent of them actually said they were going to permanently close, and it’s because of COVID 19.”

Travel and tourism is one Montana’s most important industries with millions of visitors each year spending billions of dollars.