MISSOULA – With thousands of people flocking to Montana for relaxation or life, there is a growing local problem that our “outdoor lifestyle” is being ruined. A new multimedia marketing campaign aims to educate and ward off “bad behavior”.
You could call it a “COVID crest”. An explosion of interest in Montana’s nature that began last year as an alternative to the lockdown life and continues strong into 21. Great for the state’s $ 7 billion outdoor recreational business. Not so much for those dealing with crowds on their favorite trail or lake.
“We heard stories of really bad behavior last year where some of them might have been viewed as new visitors,” said Jeremy Sage, interim director of the University of Montana Institute of Tourism and Recreation. “They have no real understanding of the way of life outdoors and the kind of ‘treat nature well’ mantra we live by up here. And so we try to figure these out and how we communicate them to all of them.” Visitors coming out? “
Pat Doyle, State Parks Communication Manager at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says Montana wasn’t alone.
And that wasn’t just something you saw in Montana. This was a nationwide thing where COVID and lockdowns in different states were really forcing people outside. And a lot of people are new to camping, hiking, and the outdoors, which is great. I mean, that’s one of the reasons these places are preserved. We will find them and have meaningful experiences out there. But connected with this is the responsibility to enjoy this country safely and to relax responsibly during your visit.
So tourism leaders are doing something about it, with everyone from regional tourism offices to Glacier National Park, FWP, and others joining forces to tell everyone to “Responsibly Renew”.
“They know everyone is on the same page and all DMOs across the state and the Office of Tourism and our agency partners,” said Racene Friede, President and CEO of Glacier Country Tourism. “You know when you work together you are so much more effective.”
Gina Kerzman, Public Affairs Officer in Glacier National Park, urged the joint approach.
“Several partners volunteered to take part in our efforts, including the state of Montana when it was discovered that we were all facing similar issues. I’m excited about what has resulted in an action-based, nationwide initiative and the positive impact this campaign could have on not just Glacier National Park, but the entire region and the entire state. “
The Montana Office of Tourism created a toolkit of resources available to companies nationwide and a mini-grant program for destination management organizations to help integrate and produce online and print materials.
“We recognize that not all communities across Montana have access to the same resources,” says Jan Stoddard of the Montana Office of Tourism, “and yet we all face the same problems. This scholarship program helps level the playing field so that our smaller communities are not left behind when they have the opportunity to share the message of Recreate Responsably. “
You’ve probably heard the radio commercial this summer.
“Also, we have to stick to public land and never relax on private land. It’s the little things like adhering to campfire safety and leaving principles that have a huge impact on maintaining this extraordinary place, well, out of the ordinary.”
And not just online and on air. Marketers also use traditional media such as billboards to get the message across to passing travelers.
“And we have advertising, paid media, social media, signage, billboards, all of which point to a website that is not just about telling it directly and responsibly,” Friede tells me. “There are actually resources out there to help you understand how to do it.”
Some of the tips are just common sense, at least for those of us who have been relaxing in Montana for years. But many of our visitors and some new locals don’t know the basics like putting out campfires and not feeding the bears. Or just respect each other’s space.
Friede says it’s about respecting and sharing Montana and its communities.
“We don’t want people not to come. We just want people when they come to be like us and reinvent themselves responsibly. Practice good leadership and be part of our communities. “
“Not everyone knows how to responsibly recreate, and that is no one to blame,” notes Doyle. “It’s just that you know how we were brought up as Montaner. And that’s why we want to share this knowledge with people who may be visiting here or who have just moved to the state.”
Sage believes this can make a difference not just this season, but in the years to come as well.
“We have these great rooms, but they are great because they are in great shape and we want it to stay that way. Here are some of the suggestions on how to behave and what to do in these rooms. so, yes, they are great now and will be great 20 years from now. ‘
According to Sage, the UM Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research is also conducting some large-scale surveys this season to measure first-time visitor experiences in order to further refine what Montana can do to keep your leisure time flowing.