Border Opening Important to State
The Montana Tourism industry is waiting for President Biden’s announcement that he is reopening the Canadian border for leisure travel for people who are vaccinated. He has indicated that announcement will come in November. While the southern border of the US stands wide open, the northern border has been closed tight, crippling trade and tourism business for Montana since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Canada early-on opened travel across the border, but the US has closed travel to all but essential travel since March 2020, despite pleas by northern state governors, including Gov. Gianforte, to open it.
Canada is a significant trading partner for Montana, especially in regard to Montana’s almost $4 billion tourism industry. In 2019, it is estimated that Canadian travelers spent about $166 million in Montana.
While the level of tourism can vary from year to year depending on the value of the US dollar compared to the Canadian dollar, some years the number of visitors from Canada have been reported to exceed the number of visitors from Washington, Idaho and North Dakota combined.
Kara Grau with the Montana Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research explains that they estimate the number of travelers coming to Montana based on traffic counts and observations of their surveyors.
In 2019, traffic coming in via a Canadian border crossing accounted for about 6 percent of Montana travelers.
In 2020, that dropped to about 1 percent, most of which arrived during the first quarter before the pandemic closures. With the border closed that number hasn’t changed in 2021.