Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative

Eastern Montana’s unique landscapes, historical and cultural sites, and opportunities for outdoor recreation are an undiscovered treasure full of untapped possibilities for economic growth.

The Office of Tourism and Business Development is partnering with communities across eastern Montana through the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative to strengthen and diversify local and regional economies, in part by raising awareness of eastern Montana as a tourism destination.

MOTBD is investing in long-term efforts, including regional marketing, grants, staff expertise and access to new data to support the region’s goals of enhancing marketing efforts, strengthening tourism amenities and creating vibrant communities where families want to live.

"We have untold potential in eastern Montana to share our spectacular landscapes and unique, authentic experiences with visitors who can’t find what we have to offer anywhere else,” said Beth Epley, executive director of the Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation located in Baker. “No one knows our story better than we do, but we need enhanced resources to get the word out about the untapped adventures right here in the eastern half of our state. With the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative, we can start to build the infrastructure we need to support more tourism, attract more visitors and give them a place to stay – all of which will help grow our local economy in the long-run.”

Communities across eastern Montana are proactively planning ways to diversify their local and regional economies for the future, including by raising awareness of eastern Montana as a tourism destination.

To further the region’s goals of enhancing marketing efforts, strengthening tourism amenities and creating vibrant communities in which families want to live, the Office of Tourism and Business Development at the Montana Department of Commerce is investing $1.3 million over two years (2018-2020) in long-term efforts. That ongoing work includes regional marketing, grants, staff expertise and access to updated data.


Grant Awards

Eastern Montana communities are sharing a total of $673,079 to build or enhance existing tourism infrastructure, raise awareness of eastern Montana as a tourist destination and support sustainable economic development in the communities and nearby areas. Uniquely, many of these grant projects are collaborations that cross county lines, or even span the entire eastern Montana region.

Grant projects include:

  • MonDak Motorcycle Loop Project – $32,000 – Route will run from Baker to Alzada (Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation)
  • “Living the Sloth Life” Project – $51,000 – Billings (ZooMontana)
  • Eastern Montana Astrotourism Product Development Project – $75,000 – Project spans the entire Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative area (Montana’s Missouri River Country)
  • Event Stage and Digital Screen Project – $75,000 – Glasgow and surrounding communities (Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture)
  • Bear Paw Battlefield Campaign Project – $27,000 – Blaine County (Central Montana Tourism Region)
  • Fergus County Wayfinding System Project – $35,000 – Lewistown and surrounding recreational trails (Fergus County)
  • Portable Performance Stage – $65,000 – Daniels County Museum Association (Scobey)
  • Terry Kiosk Project – $5,250 – Terry and surrounding communities (Prairie County Economic Development Council)
  • Ekalatic Dome (portable planetarium) - $38,000 - Carter Country Geological Society (Ekalaka)
  • Baha Tata'ga Omaskaska Buffalo Trail Prayer Path - $50,000 - The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes (Fort Peck)
  • Trail to the Little Bighorn - $45,000 - Southeast Montana Tourism Region (Little Bighorn Battlefield and surrounding area)
  • Developing Northeast Montana's Recreation Opportunities - $36,000 - Montana Missouri River Tourism Region (featuring the communities of Glasgow and Sidney)
  • Apsaalooke Tourism - $25,000 - Plenty Doors Community Development Corporation (Crow Nation)
  • Cook Lake Park and West End Trails - $7,000 - Miles City Area Economic Development Council, Inc. (Miles City)
  • Portable Events Stage - $22,129 - Dawson County Economic Development Council (Glendive and Dawson County)

Eastern Montana Initiative Zones


Marketing Eastern Montana as a Tourism Destination

The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development launched a strategic marketing campaign in the summer of 2019 targeting travelers in neighboring states and Canadian provinces to raise awareness of eastern Montana as a tourism destination. Places targeted included Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The summer campaign focused on family audiences for unique experiences like the Dino Trail, as well as history buffs, for experiences like the Little Bighorn Battlefield and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The campaign delivered 35.8 million impressions from May to July 2019.

Campaigns for summer 2020 were put on hold due to the pandemic. 

eastern montana digital mobile capture

In the fall of 2019, the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development promoted the many hunting opportunities eastern Montana has to offer. Specifically, the fall campaign showcased how this part of the state is perfect for upland bird hunting. Hunters from surrounding areas and neighboring states have informally sought out eastern Montana for these opportunities in the past, but this marketing campaign aimed to strategically engage hunters to hook them and their families on hunting in eastern Montana for years to come.

 eastern montana hunting

Driving the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative is data showing that declining lodging tax collections in the region, increased competition from neighboring states, and rural communities that have tremendous potential for growth but limited tools to realize that growth.

In 2018, The Office of Tourism and Business Development at the Montana Department of Commerce held 14 listening sessions to strategically engage with tourism and economic development partners in 23 counties across eastern Montana.

Information from local policymakers, business owners, entrepreneurs and community members has led to a robust understanding of the challenges communities in eastern Montana face, along with the unique opportunities and innovative ideas from local communities to increase visitation and strengthen business growth.

That information was collected by Destination Analysts and used to compile the Eastern Montana Stakeholder Research report, which details the findings from the 14 listening sessions, including the objectives for the Eastern Montana Tourism Partner Initiative. The report, like the initiative itself, is community-driven and is aimed at identifying and realizing long-term growth opportunities for tourism in the region.

This page will continue to be updated as new data and resources become available.