Montana Sustainable Tourism – the Case Study of Livingston, Montana

What exactly is Sustainable Tourism, and why should I care?

According to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, sustainable tourism is the practice of acknowledging the impacts of tourism, both good and bad, to minimize environmental and economic damage while spurring job creation along with cultural and wildlife preservation. Here at Solimar International, we help destinations create a culture of sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness, and the preservation of environmental, cultural and natural heritage. When discussing culture, it’s important to emphasize the roots of a destination, both big and small. Small towns in the United States are the backbone of American culture, and often have so much more to offer than meets the eye. Supporting the local economy of these areas allows for their cultures to be sustained and brought to light in a new way. As a traveler, you have so much power to effect positive change through the destinations you choose. One example is Livingston, Montana. In this blog, we’ll tell you why supporting towns like Livingston, Montana is the future of sustainable tourism.

The Last Best Place, and Why it Deserves the Nickname

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
Tourists skiing in Montana

Big Sky County with Big Opportunity

The state of Montana, often referred to as “The Last Best Place”, can be categorized this way for a few key reasons. One, the state is home to 10 national parks, most notably Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Montana is known for its vast landscapes and serene atmosphere that create a sense of tranquility that is hard to emulate. Montana is the perfect year round destination with fantastic winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and dogsledding, as well as summer activities such as hiking, fly-fishing, and horseback riding. Fly-fishing in Montana is world renowned for its top quality outfitters and Trout specimens along the Yellowstone River, while Big Sky is home to the biggest skiing runs in America. Out-of-state tourism generated $2.60 billion to the Montana economy in the year 2020, with the in-state revenue bringing the total to a combined $4.4 billion. Since tourism is one of the largest economic sectors in the state, it is vital to use this momentum to propel counties forward that otherwise may not see an equal share of tourists to their neighbors. 

Benefiting the Small Town

The town of Livingston has a poverty rate of 14.5%, compared to the national average of 11.4%. Many factors have led to this statistic, including seasonal occupations, lack of job creation, and marketing short comings. Small towns like this could benefit greatly from economic growth through tourism, and Montana already has the infrastructure set up. At Solimar International, we recognize the gap between what these areas can offer, and what is being projected to the general public. We work to close that gap by offering an extensive marketing plan to highlight what makes a destination unique. We work closely with the local job force to create a DMO (destination management organization), which aligns with the cultural and historical values of the area. 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience in Montana

Solimar’s involvement with the Lewis and Clark Trail

At Solimar International, we are currently working to promote the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail through the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience. In partnership with the National Park Service, this website promotes sustainable tourism and cultural education through 16 different states. The website offers an interactive map highlighting different places to stay, historical sights, and activities along the trail. The site aims to educate travelers about the cultural heritage of the land, while also highlighting areas that may otherwise not get the same level of visibility. In Montana, for example, there are seven tribal territories, with the Lewis and Clark trail going through many of them. The website offers a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about Indian reservations, while also directly supporting their economy. Overall, in Montana there are 40 counties located on the Lewis and Clark Trail. All 40 counties offer unique experiences, but one in particular that stands out is Park County, home of Livingston. 

Why Livingston, Montana Should be Your Next Stop

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
View point of Yellowstone River in Montana

Outdoor Activities in the Wild, Wild West

Livingston is a small town located within scenic Park County. The town is along many visitors’ paths to Yellowstone National Park, making it a convenient destination. Tourism has been a tremendous driver recently in their economic growth, and they continue to capitalize on this momentum.  Livingston is home to world-class fly-fishing as it runs adjacent to the Yellowstone River. The river is world-famous for its fly-fishing, and is a tourism driver within itself. The Yellowstone River runs for 103 miles, all being designated blue ribbon fishing, meaning it qualifies as an extremely high-quality fishery. Fishing in Montana can often be described as “therapeutic”, as many who try it are hooked for life. Another outdoor activity common to the area is white water rafting. With many top-rated outfitters, rafting guarantees a thrilling experience for the whole family. Lastly, Montana is known for its “cowboy culture”, which certainly is in abundance in Livingston. Horseback riding adventures are offered daily, providing a unique experience to all riding levels. 

Entertainment and Museums in the Wild Wild West

classic small town settings in Montana
An image of town life in Montana from the 20th century

Livingston has so much more to offer than just outdoor activities. From museums to shopping and everything in between, there is something for everyone. The Livingston Depot Center, now a museum, was initially the first railroad launch point for Yellowstone National Park. It is now used as a cultural landmark to educate visitors about the history of the Yellowstone region and the animals that reside in it. Another museum is the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, commemorated as a part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This museum houses geological and historical artifacts. Famous local eateries include Mark’s In & Out, a 1950’s burger joint, and Yellowstone Valley Grill, an upscale farm to table restaurant. The most notable place to stay in town is the Murray Hotel. The hotel is the oldest in town, built in 1904 as accommodation for railway passengers. Some of the more notable visitors have included Whoopi Goldberg, The Queen of Denmark, and Will Rogers. 

We constantly want to create connections between travelers and the path to making an impact. If you want to learn more about sustainable tourism, and how it directly impacts the communities around you, visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today. We’re also always happy to have a personalized conversation to discuss strategic planning. Contact us to learn more.

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“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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