Associated Press Summer was big-spending month

Travelers brought $1.5 billion into Montana in 1998, most of it in the summer, and spent the biggest part of it for retail purchases, mostly in Gallatin County and Billings.

Those are some of the findings of a recent analysis by the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.

Summer was by far the big-spending season, totaling $984 million. Spring and fall together accounted for $301 million, and $240 million in the winter.

Results of the study have been compiled in a 58-page report titled "Regional Nonresident Spending in Montana." It contains information about nine major Montana counties and their largest cities, as well as the entire state.

The study found the nonresident travelers spent 24 percent of their money on retail purchases and 22 percent on gasoline and oil. Restaurants and bars got 18 percent, and hotels, lodging and camping 17 percent. These four categories accounted for 81 percent of expenditures that totaled $885 million.

The tourists included 3.8 million travel groups. Fifty-nine percent visited during the summer, 25 percent in the spring and fall, and 16 percent in the winter.

Researchers learned that nonresident travelers stayed in Montana an average of 4.3 days. The average group size was 2.4 individuals, and they spent an average of $401 in Montana. The average expenditure per day in the state was $93.

The study found that in 1998 nonresident travelers spent the equivalent of $1,732 for every person in Montana.

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