A research study recently conducted at the University of Montana found that nonresident travel and tourist spending continues to increase in the Treasure State. Assistant Director of Economic Analysis Kara Grau said 11 million visitors directly delivered more than $1 billion in labor income to the state while visiting Big Sky Country.

"We have seen that travelers continue to spend increasing amounts of money each year and I believe number of visitors that we've had statewide in 2014 was down just slightly in 2013, yet those visitors spend more money than the year before," Grau said. "We just continue to see that they're spending more, doing more things...It's great to see. They're sort of spreading the wealth."

Estimates showed visitors spent approximately $3.9 billion in Montana in 2014, $1.2 billion of which was spent in the northwestern part of the state alone. Grau said most of that comes from travelling costs such as food and gas. The other part that could contribute to the high figures, particularly in Missoula County, was retail.

"In Missoula County, nonresident travelers spent about a little over $285 million," Grau said. "A lot of that is going towards fuel to get around, a lot towards eating in the county, and retail sales came in third. It made up about 16 percent of the total spent by nonresidents who traveled through Missoula County last year."

Spending by nonresidents in Lincoln County totaled $90 million, more than $62 million in Glacier County, and $489 million in Flathead County.

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