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Coalition promoting tourism as economic development

| January 9, 2007 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

What began as an idea to promote local tourism during Libby's 2003 "Dream It! Do It!" workshop has grown into an active countywide coalition of members comprising Lincoln County Tourism Inc.

By-laws and articles of incorporation as a non-profit corporation have been submitted to Montana's Secretary of State. Members representing the communities within Lincoln County are now striving to educate the public about tourism; build a tourism infrastructure within the public, private, and non-profit sectors; promote tourism in a connected, collaborative manner; and implement a long-range strategic plan for Lincoln County tourism development.

A memorandum of agreement signed by governmental organizations, civic groups, merchants, business owners and other interested parties promoting development of the hospitality and tourism sector significantly strengthened the county's commitment to build a sustainable tourism industry.

All acknowledged Lincoln County is a delightful and unique place to visit with land in the shadows of high mountain peaks, blue ribbon fishing, miles of hiking, backpacking and mountain biking trails, camping, boating, golfing, skiing, quiet country living, small-town atmospheres and Montana-made products to purchase.

The installation of attractive Kootenai River Country gateway signage on area highways, participation in the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism and Recreation, and advertising and promoting area activities and events are some of the corporation's initial activities to increase the county's share of state tourism and promote Lincoln County as a total tourist destination having year-round activities for the whole family.

According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, the state continues to experience a nice, basic, steady, smooth growth trajectory of visitors. Being the state's second largest industry, Montana's tourism topped $2 billion and welcomed more than 10 million out-of-state visitors in 2005.

Visitors contributed to more than 29,000 tourism-related jobs, generating $531 million in tourism-related income and more than $739 million in total personal income to residents.

Forecasters see little to impede continual increases in out-of-state and Canadian tourism to Montana. Connecting with the beauty of Lincoln County's landscape and the abundance of recreational opportunities, members are confident the area has a bright future within the three major out-of-state tourism activities: recreational shopping, pleasure driving and wildlife watching.

Members strongly believe that everyone benefits directly or indirectly when visitors find the county attractive enough to visit, stop and shop.

Membership to Lincoln County Tourism Inc. is open to any person or business who supports tourism in Lincoln County. Citizen participation is encouraged, and the corporation openly invites anyone to attend its meetings and bring others interested in the topic of tourism as economic development.

Contact at 293-9643 in Libby, 297-7374 in Eureka, and 295-4151 in Troy for more information.

Bobby D. Whitefield