GREAT FALLS — Tourism officials in Great Falls are looking forward to 2021 and the possibilities it brings for travelers.
Great Falls Montana Tourism director Rebecca Engum says while it's a calendar new year, the organization's fiscal year resets on July 1st.
They're approaching a full year without bringing in usual events like Western Art Week, Downtown Summer Jam, the Montana State Fair, and Montana PRCA Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals. The PRCA event was moved to Kalispell this year due to Covid-19. She said last year, around 9,000 tickets were sold over the three day rodeo event in Great Falls. Room demand also grew 12% that week.
Great Falls Tourism paused marketing efforts at the start of the pandemic. They then began emphasizing returning to the Treasure State safely, by following health guidelines and county mandates.
Engum says besides seeing new faces in town, they're also missing returning neighbors from the north. Roughly 20% of travelers who booked overnight stays in Great Falls were from Alberta.
"Having that border closed has really been a challenge for us,” she said. “Canadian travelers come down year-round to do shopping and entertainment and so we've really missed them in our market for that."
The tourism office became eligible for federal Paycheck Protection Program funding this month. They're also applying for grants that will continue to support operations.
The office is currently partnering with the Great Falls International Airport on a Small Community Air Service development grant. Engum says the grant will bring more flight opportunities into Great Falls.