Celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week 2024

What is tourism?

In the tourism industry, many terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between keywords. The United Nations Tourism Organization offers a succinct definition that may help better explain some of the differences in destination leadership organization (DLO) conversations, including terms in this document.

Tourism is a social, cultural, and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors (which may be either tourists or excursionists; residents or non-residents) and tourism has to do with their activities, some of which involve tourism expenditure.

What does tourism look like in Billings? On average, Billings hosts 2.6M visitors annually who travel to the city for business demands, medical needs, and leisure offerings. This can include vacations, weekend getaways, meetings, conferences, appointments, sports events, or tours. Those 2.6M visitors typically spend an average of $621M in Billings businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, retailers, attractions, campgrounds, outfitters, guides, etc. (Destination Analysts, 2018).

How can tourism grow and strengthen? Well currently, Billings is only playing host to 20.8% of travelers to Montana (ITRR, 2022). In 2022, 12.5M people visited Montana and spent $5.82B. Billings has the capacity to responsibly host more annual visitors. There are 54 hotels and motels (the most of any Montana city), hundreds of restaurants and retailers, and dozens of attractions open for business along with venues like MetraPark, Alberta Bair Theater, and the Pub Station hosting events weekly for locals and visitors alike. 

What else is in it for local residents?

  • Tourism reduces the average tax burden on every Montana household by more than $721/year.
  • 1 in 10 Montana workers is supported by out-of-state travel.
  • Non-Montana resident visitors offer $1.4B in direct employee compensation.
  • Non-Montana resident visitors support 44,000 Montana jobs.
  • Non-Montana resident visitors contribute $315M in state and local taxes, much of which goes to the state’s General Funds to support budgets for the State of Montana and numerous programs and state agencies.

Tourism’s impact on Billings’ economy is often understated. But, the work Visit Billings contributes, as laid out in this plan, increases the city’s competitive edge against other destinations, creates quality employment options, stimulates economic growth, generally cultivates a vibrant community where people want to visit and live, and builds a tourism brand that can elevate community pride.

Why Billings?


Conveniently positioned in southeast Montana as the largest city between Calgary and Denver, Spokane and Minneapolis, Billings proudly serves a trade area of more than 500,000 people. Unparalleled access to some of the most scenic and historic places in the United States including Yellowstone National Park, Bighorn Canyon, national monuments, and the Beartooth Scenic Byway, help make Billings an idyllic destination for connecting to the best that Montana and parts of the west offer.

What is Visit Billings and How is the Organization Funded?


Visit Billings is the brand that represents the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District

(BTBID) and the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB). Both organizations are managed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce. The Visit Billings team is committed to growing visitation at Montana’s Trailhead through sales and marketing initiatives. The Visit Billings’ mission is to generate room nights for lodging facilities in the city of Billings by effectively marketing the region as a preferred travel destination. Visit Billings is the DLO for Billings, Montana.


As a destination leadership organization (DLO), Visit Billings is the backbone of the tourism industry for Billings. A DLO protects and fosters the local visitor economy through promotion, marketing, destination management, cautious strategies, and long-term initiatives like air service development. DLOs exist to promote destinations, grow visitation to a place, and are also responsible for attracting or supporting events, large and small, that increase visitation to a city. For Billings, the Visit Billings staff is considered an extension of its stakeholders (lodging partners) working to provide sales, services, and marketing support to the local hospitality industry and tourism partners. 

Visit Billings works domestically and internationally to enhance tourism for the city in leisure, meetings, group tour, and sporting events markets. A DLO, like Visit Billings, does this by increasing awareness of the destination and by engaging with meeting and conference planners, sports events owners and promoters, the media, consumers in both the drive and flight markets, and tour operators. Under leadership of the BTBID and Chamber/CVB boards, as well as the State of Montana and the City of Billings, the Visit Billings team executes priorities with research-driven marketing and sales programs. Strategies highlight outdoor adventures, incredible landscapes, arts and culture, culinary and nightlife offerings, proximity to national points of interest like the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the Beartooth Scenic Byway, and Yellowstone National Park, as well as the community’s meeting and sports facilities which foster certain markets. 

Additionally, 89% of non-Montana residents plan to return to the state in the next 24 months (ITRR, 2022). This repeat visitation component is key to continued economic growth, too. Repeat visitation is a priority for Visit Billings and is fostered by ensuring a positive visitor experience. Focusing on in-market customer service training efforts like the Certified Tourism Ambassador Program (CTA), championing Certified Autism Destination (CAD) and accessibility support, celebrating human differences, and elevating the power of tourism to residents, all assist with this priority.

In some parts of Montana, over-visitation overwhelms conversations about the tourism and travel industry. Billings is an amazing travel destination where businesses appreciate the visitor. Visit Billings strategies are welcoming and aim to help support visitors and residents alike.


Visit Billings is funded primarily through the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District (BTBID) and through a portion of the State Lodging Facility Use Tax. The BTBID assesses $2.00 per occupied room per night on all hotels and motels in the city of Billings with six (6) or more sleeping rooms. The BTBID funds stay local for the marketing and promotion of the city as a destination, to grow visitation, and support local businesses and stakeholders. In fall of 2023, the BTBID Board of Directors voted to increase the BTBID assessment by $2.00/occupied room/night for a total assessment amount of $4.00 per occupied room per night, effective July 1, 2024. This increased amount will be realized in the FY26 budget. A portion of the increased budget will help execute Visit Billings initiatives outlined in the 2024-2027 Visit Billings Strategic Plan. All funds help Billings remain a competitive destination.

Additionally, there are two Montana taxes imposed on users of an overnight lodging facility (such as a hotel, motel, campground, dude ranch, short-term rental, and/or guest ranch), which are collected by the facility and remitted to the Montana Department of Revenue. These two taxes are a 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax and a 4% Lodging Facility Sales Tax, for a combined 8% lodging tax.


Popular attractions include the Rimrocks which surround much of the city offering incredible views of the region. The Rimrocks, or Rims, run north and east of the downtown core and rise 500-800 feet tall depending on where you stand. Four Dances National Recreation Area, Swords-Rimrock Park, the Skyline Trail, and Zimmerman Park offer vantage points of the city and the South Hills, as well as the Bighorn, Pryor, and Beartooth Mountains. On clear days, in the right spots along the Rims, you can also see the Crazy, Big Snowy, and Bull Mountains. The elevation of Billings is 3,126 feet above sea level.

The destination boasts a citywide brewery district with much of it experienced in historic downtown, restaurants featuring local flavors and James Beard finalist chefs, Montana’s only zoo and botanical park, contemporary and western museums, galleries, several theaters, music venues, outdoor community venues, boutique retail, and annual festivals.

Billings is home to nearly 50 miles of multi-use trails and 24 miles of bike lanes including the newly celebrated Skyline Trail stretching along HWY3 and the Rims. From the Rimrocks to the Yellowstone River, which is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48, travelers experience the magic of Montana’s Trailhead. Billings sits near the intersection of Interstates 90 and 94 and offers a first-class, newly renovated and expanded airport with numerous daily flights to major U.S. cities via Delta, United, American Airlines, Allegiant, Sun Country, and Alaska Airlines. Regional carrier CapeAir also plays an important regional role in air travel and connectivity between Billings and eastern Montana rural communities.

Amazing summer weather and snowy winters with bluebird days offer ample opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to experience adventures during all four seasons. Nearly 4,500 hotel rooms, flexible meeting space, and sports venues are ready to accommodate any traveler or planner’s needs and preferences.