Destination Missoula: Reenvisioning Tourism

Destination Missoula:
Reenvisioning Tourism

Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.


A vibrant and inclusive quality of life, place, and experience for both our community and visitors


Promoting responsible and sustainable year-round tourism

  • About DSP
  • Town Hall
  • Steering Committee
  • Survey


Traditionally, destination marketing organizations have gauged their success by the number of “heads in beds.” But this single metric does not tell the whole story. Our industry has begun to expand our viewpoint, better analyze data, and redefine performance markers for our destinations and communities. In broadening the scope, we are seeing destinations become “over-loved” from the combined effects of successful marketing and the rise in travel and “rapid mobility.”

Destination Missoula began to reevaluate its traditional role of destination marketing. It became clear that creating a roadmap for the future of tourism is vital, not only for our organization, but for our community members and natural environment, as well. We began to apply these insights and values four years ago with a tourism master plan, but COVID-19 put everything on hold, as it did for so many.

As restrictions lifted and other destinations struggled to recover from the loss of visitors, Missoula’s tourism rebounded at an incredible rate. This period of time also attracted new residents to Missoula. Together, with the effects of the pandemic, Missoula faced new challenges, such as lack of hospitality and service industry workers, a sky-rocketing housing market, and negative impacts to our natural resources. The growing interest in rural destinations and its impacts raises the question: Is this growth temporaryor are these trends now mainstays?

The potential long-term economic, social, and environmental impacts on our community create a new lens through which we must reexamine our role. As we shift from “destination marketing/management” to “destination marketing/stewardship,” our new measure of success is equilibrium between our community’s values, low-impact/high-quality tourism opportunities, and economic stability.

“The goal is to curate more immersive destination experiences, manage sustainable visitor growth, promote equitable economic development and elevate quality of life and place.”
DESTINATION NEXT – Futures Study 2019


A DSP for Missoula and the five surrounding valleys would serve as a 10-year roadmap, providing an organized and structured framework for inclusive, value-based, sustainable tourism development and promotion that helps to preserve quality of life for residents. The plan would effectively define:


Who are our current and potential visitors?
What is the breakdown of regional, in-state and out-of-state visitation?
What attracts/does not attract people to our destination?
What is the present environment in terms of community values, safety, cultures, religions, infrastructure, resources, facilities, events, etc.?
What is the visitor, resident, and business sentiment around Missoula tourism and current policies governing it?
Who is our competitive set and what key takeaways can we learn from them?
Who are our key stakeholders and who should be involved in planning and/or implementation?
What current community plans exist and what is our role within them?


What is the current trajectory of tourism in our area and opportunity/risk assessments?
How do we encourage community-wide insight for the future and goal setting for our region?
How do we create an all-inclusive plan that represents Missoula's diversity?
What KPIs need to be used to measure short and long-term success and economic impact?


Define implementation strategies that engage our community stakeholders/partners, local/regional/state governments, and investors.
Create a timeline for implementation defining ownership/responsible entity.

Through this plan our goal is to:

  • Balance residents' quality of life with quality visitor experiences.
  • Define our ideal visitor as one who appreciates and helps to preserve what makes this place special.
  • Create strategies for responsible growth and management of the industry and destination development planning through collaboration.

It's critical that Missoula's DSP honor the potentially disparate objectives of myriad public and private partners in the region, while revealing and calling attention to where there is common ground and value for all involved. The process must define a shared vision; engage and inform the public, local thought leaders, government agencies, businesses, relevant nonprofit organizations and private industry; and develop an implementation roadmap for collective action.

Download DSP project timeline information. Goals broken down by month.

We’re reaching out to our community for help in creating a successful and sustainable Destination Stewardship Plan for tourism over the next several months. We want to ensure our plan reflects the needs and desires of our community, so we invite you to share your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions during one of our town hall meetings.

The town hall meetings will be held at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Missoula on September 26th from 5:30-7:00 pm and September 27th from 11:30 am-1:00 pm

We look forward to hearing from you!

Town hall attendees will be entered to win a Destination Missoula dry bag filled with great swag!

Guest Information

RSVP Information

OPTIONAL: A boxed lunch will be available for purchase on the 24th. It includes a sandwich, bag of kettle chips, and a cookie. A vegetarian option is also available upon request. The purchase of lunch is not required to attend.

Special Thanks to our Sponsors

Destination Stewardship Steering Committee

Name Organization
Amy Cilimburg Climate Smart Missoula
Ben Horan Five Valleys Land Trust
Brian Ellstad Missoula Montana Airport
Chuck Maes University of Montana
Dan Monahan DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton Missoula – Edgewater
David Herrera Montana Gay Health Task Force
Donna Gaukler Missoula Parks & Recreation
Dr. Melissa Weddell Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research (UM)
Emily Brock Missoula County Economic and Land Development/Fairgrounds
Heidi Wallace Empower MT
Ian Ortlieb Missoula Parking Commission
Jordan Hess City of Missoula
Julie Lacey Missoula Economic Partnership
Kim Sawyer Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Missoula
Laura Henning Glacier Ice Rink
Laura Millin Missoula Art Museum
Linda McCarthy Downtown Missoula Partnership
Lisa Tate National Museum of Forest Service History
Loren Flynn Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Matt Lautzenheiser Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
Mike Morelli MCT, Inc.
Molly Stockdale Travelers’ Rest Connection
Paige Livingston One Eleven Boutique
Rachel Gregg Big Sky Film Institute
Staci Nugent Paradise Falls
Terri Raugland Blackfoot River Outfitters
Tim O’Leary Kettlehouse Brewery
Velda Shelby Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

If you're giving dry a try this month, Missoula has plenty of spots for mocktails. Check out some of our favorites

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