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Snowy splendor in Glacier National Park

The snow-capped peaks of Glacier National Park provide a dramatic backdrop for park visitors standing on the dock off Lake McDonald Lodge in the winter of 2017.

It was a little more crowded with tourists in Montana last year, and they were a little less giving with their wallets.

The number of nonresident tourists visiting Montana was up by 5 percent in 2016 from the year before, with 12.35 million people visiting the state. They spent a total of $3.46 billion, which is actually down 5 percent from 2015. That's according to figures released recently by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

However, tourism is still a huge part of the statewide economy. That visitor spending directly supported more than $2.86 billion in economic activity and 41,230 jobs across the state.

Most of the visitors to Montana came in summer and early fall.

“Forty-six percent, or 5.7 million, of those visitors were in the state during the third quarter, July through September 2016, which is an increase of 9 percent from 2015,” said Kara Grau, ITRR assistant director of economic analysis. “Likewise, 46 percent of spending by travelers during 2016 occurred during third quarter, totaling close to $1.6 billion — which is down 3 percent from 2015 — with travel groups spending an average of $148.40 per day during those summer months.”

During the first three months of last year, traveler groups spent an average of $161.39 per day, up 3 percent from the previous year, but that dropped to $127.49 per day from April through June, down 2 percent from 2015.

Tourists spent most of their money on gas and diesel fuel, and restaurants and bars, both coming in at 18 percent. They spent 9 percent on retail items. Licenses and entrance fees constituted 13 percent, and hotels and bed and breakfasts took up 12 percent. Groceries and snacks took 8 percent, and outfitters and guides cost them 7 percent.

The average group size last year was 2.31 people, and their average length of stay was 4.36 nights.

The full report can be found at

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