We've had a bit of a debate in our office about what's happening to Montana's popularity.

In June, I made the argument that Montana's fifteen minutes of fame could be coming to an end. But by October, it looked like Montana's fifteen minutes of fame wasn't ending after all.

Montana tourism

Montana's Recent Tourism

One metric of Montana's popularity is tourism, and there is data to suggest Montana is still pretty popular. According to a story in the Flathead Beacon that references statistics from Glacier National Park, "approximately 552,658 visitors came to Glacier in September 2023, or about 1.34% more than the same month last year."

The Montana Free Press also reported on Montana's post-pandemic tourism and found that while some indicators showed tourism was continuing to grow, others indicated tourism was "leveling off." In their reporting, they noted that Montana had visits from 12.5 million nonresidents in 2022, a statistic that comes from the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.

That number, 12.5 million stuck out to me because I recently saw it somewhere else.

montana tourism

Montana's Tourism Compared to the Rest of the Country

The travel website Matador Network just published its list of "10 Least Visited States That Should Be on Your 2024 Travel List" and Montana is on the list. Having only 12.5 million visitors is the statistic they cite as the metric that puts Montana on the list.

Read More: Attractive Montana Town Ranks #1 For Mountain Towns in 2023

Montana's 12.5 million nonresident visitors is less than New Hampshire, Vermont, South Dakota, and Maine's nonresident visitors, but those were only the states that rounded out the list of least visited states. That doesn't count the 40 other states (41 if the District of Columbia is included) that have more visitors than the bottom 10.

Put another way: most other states in the country get more visitors than Montana does.

As Matador Network points out, "...relatively lower traveler numbers are surprising compared to the state's reputation..." and I do think that is the case with Montana. Given Montana's reputation over the past three years, you would think that it was receiving more visitors than other states, but it looks like that isn't the case.

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Gallery Credit: Laura Ratliff

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