BOZEMAN – According to a recent report by the University of Montana, Gallatin County ranked the highest in non-resident sending in the state.
Out of the $3.24 billion tourists spent over 2016 and 2017, $660 million was spent in Gallatin County. The next highest county was Flathead with $531 million.
“$660 million generates about 8,500 jobs directly. So it is very important to our economy,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert.
Mayor Cyndy Andrus believes her hometown has brought in a lot of that money.
“I think we cannot discount tourism and the and the part that it plays in the contribution to our economy,” said Andrus. “When you think about Gallatin County, I think Bozeman is particularly an economic engine in our county and we certainly have a lot to offer when it comes to those amenities.”
Restaurants, outfitters, and hotels were the top three amenities tourists spent their money on, totaling close to half of the $660 million.
The Bozeman Chamber of Commerce is hoping to bring even more money into the valley by using web browser cookies and online surveys to target travelers from various states around the nation.
“We are trying to do everything we can do to sustain and take full advantage of the $660 million dollars of expenditures to make sure Bozeman gets their fair share of it,” said Chamber President Daryl Schliem.
But along with positives, there are negative including the wear on infrastructure burdened by local residents through property taxes. These negatives have propelled local government to look at implementing a local sales option tax.
“I think the local option tax is a subject that we really need to visit. And see what the impacts of that would be on our property tax owners, as far as reduction of property taxes paid to the county and city. I think it is a very interesting option,” said Seifert.
“We continually look for all options that help to alleviate that tax option for the local residents. So it will be one of the tools in our toolbox that we continue to look at,” said Andrus.
Whether the county and city will be able to even enforce a sales tax will ultimately be decided by the state legislature this winter.
Montana is one of the only five states without a sales tax. However, the treasure state does have a 3% Resort tax allowing communities with lower populations, which have high numbers of visitors to impose the tax to offset the cost of housing the tourists.
Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News