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Nearly 90 percent of unsolicited comments submitted by visitors to the state gave Montana positive reviews, making special note of the state’s open space and the friendliness of its residents.

The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana reviewed more than 1,100 comments submitted by nonresidents during their visit, and found that 89 percent of them were positive.

The positive comments ranged from the friendliness of Montanans to the state’s scenic beauty and open space. Most said they wanted to visit again.

“Tourism is a huge contributor to Montana’s economy with over $3.27 billion spent by nonresidents in the state last year,” said institute director Norma Nickerson. “A good experience by visitors encourages a healthy state economy.”

Positive comments focused on the state’s scenic wonders. “I was impressed by the outdoors, the local people and the amount of local microbreweries,” one visitor quipped. “We will come back,” said another.

Not all comments were as upbeat. Some visitors took issue with poor road conditions and lack of signage. Nickerson said many negative comments focused on Montana’s lack of recycling opportunities – “I don’t think I’ve seen a single recycling bin,” one visitor wrote.

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Nickerson said many state visitors come from cities and states where recycling is a way of life, including Washington, California and Oregon. They expect and want recycling services available when they travel.

“Usually, visitors are not telling us things we don’t already know,” Nickerson said. “It’s just a matter of identifying those things we need to improve upon, be it recycling, road conditions or the waiter who was rude, and implement solutions.”

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Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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