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Study: ‘Yellowstone’ brings 2M tourists, big money to Montana

Yellowstone Kevin Costner
Posted at 12:55 PM, Jan 19, 2023

MISSOULA - A new study shows that the popular Yellowstone television series is bringing millions of visitors as well as millions of dollars to Montana.

A report conducted by UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) and the school's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) shows Yellowstone brought an estimated 2.1 million visitors and $730 million in spending to Montana in 2021.

GFX Yellowstone Econ 2

The study also found that the TV show has been a significant factor in marketing Montana. Centered on the fictional Dutton family ranch, Yellowstone is largely filmed in Darby, Hamilton, Missoula and in the Bitterroot Valley. A UM news release notes the show treated more than 12 million viewers to the scenery of Montana during its season-five premiere.

A 2022 study conducted by BBER found Yellowstone contributed significantly to the state’s economy, but when the more recent study was extended to include the impact of visitor spending, these effects changed dramatically, according to BBER director Patrick Barkey.

GFX Yellowstone Econ 2

“Extending our previous analysis to include the impacts of tourism spending was eye-opening,” Barkey said.

The study found that the combination of visitor spending and film production spending associated with the production of “Yellowstone” in Montana resulted in:

  • $730.1 million in spending to the state’s economy.
  • $44.5 million in state tax revenues directed in whole or in part to the general fund.
  • 10,200-plus jobs across a wide spectrum of industries, including both tourism-related and other industries.
  • $376 million in income received by Montana households.
  • roughly $1.1 billion in output, or gross receipts, of Montana business and nonbusiness organizations.
  • 2.1 million visitors to Montana in 2021 whose decision to visit was the result of the show.
  • 3,305 more people attracted and retained to the state by the increased economic opportunity.

“Film is an economic driver of tourism, and the ‘Yellowstone’ TV show has demonstrated the power of Montana’s American West image to influence people to visit the state,” said ITRR director Melissa Weddell.

GFX Yellowstone Econ

“Everything from food services, hotels, rental companies and transportation services to high tech and skilled trades such as electricians and carpenters, are benefiting from the film industry’s activity in the state,” said Montana Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Todd O’Hair. “It is also clear that ‘Yellowstone’ has proven to be a big economic driver of tourism, creating more jobs, tax generation and a wave of economic activity.”

Additional information is available online in an article titled “Assessing the Impact of the ‘Yellowstone’ Television Series on Montana’s Tourism Economy” in BBER’s Montana Business Quarterly. The full UM report can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/UMyellTVreport.