Montana using data to market attractions outside Yellowstone, Glacier national parks

Posted at 2:21 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 16:21:47-04

HELENA – Data is driving new ways to market all of Montana as a tourist destination and is helping to convince visitors to find new adventures outside Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. 

The main challenge of tourism marketing in Montana in years gone by was to get people to drive all the way to Big Sky Country, and that meant marketing our two national parks as once-in-a-lifetime trips. 

But today, with Glacier and Yellowstone headed for another record or near-record summers, Internet fame is taking care of that job, with social media changing how people share their experiences.

Those trends, along with extremely detailed data, are allowing the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development to focus more marketing efforts on the state’s less-known attractions and adventures, the kinds of trips people are looking for.

"It’s distributing people across the state. We’re also able to target people with different interests. If it’s a non-family traveler, we know they will have more flexibility to come in the fall," said Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development Chief of Marketing Jenny Pelej. "So we’ll target to them and say ‘come to the parks, but come a different time of the year.’" 

In fact, if you peruse the state’s marketing materials now you see a lot less Old Faithful and a lot more adventures.

"We’re continuing on a strategy where we’re focusing, and you’ll see a lot of our summer advertising does not feature the parks anymore. It’s featuring things to do outside of the parks. We have a huge road trip component. People want to drive in and go to multiple places in the state," Pelej said.

That effort, called "Between the Parks," is using Montana’s "ahead of the pack" marketing initiatives, combined with data and the Internet to show people what Big Sky Country really has to offer.

"We have one that’s going after our family traveler that is 72-hours of adventure, where you can go and see how much you can pack into a weekend of different adventures that doesn’t include the park," Pelej said. "We also have one that’s aimed at our couples, who are educated traveler who maybe don’t have kids, who are coming through and they are also road tripping and want to see ghost towns and want to be hiking and want to be camping and doing different things in the state."

"It used to be the park was their main destination. They would plan their whole trip around going to one of the national parks. Now it’s just a component of their trip," Pelej said. "They’ll go into the park for a day and then they’ll go around and explore other parts of the state for the rest of their trip."

Pelej said in the long run that will diversify Montana’s tourism industry, and it’s economic impact.

"So what our visitor wants is an authentic experience and I always tell people, our visitor isn’t coming here to do something. They’re coming here to feel something," Pelej said.

Even though the parks are crowded again this summer, state officials say there aren’t people complaining enough to avoid visiting Glacier and Yellowstone.