After receiving a significant grant award in December, Visit Southeast Montana, along with two other Montana tourism regions, is on a mission to develop a typographically diverse road trip map by April of 2024.
Visit SEMT received a total of $70,000 through the Tourism Grant Program administered by the Montana Department of Commerce in December of 2022, and plans to use it to "develop the digital asset of The Badlands to Breaks to Beartooths road trip," according to a news release by the the Department of Commerce.
Director of Marketing at Visit SEMT Brenda Maas noted she is partnering with three other tourism regions - Missouri River Country, Central Montana and Yellowstone Country - in order to develop the large tourism product.
According to the Montana Department of Commerce, "The Tourism Grant Program is funded by the 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax, commonly known as the 'Bed Tax.' Enacted by the 1987 Legislature, the Bed Tax is collected from guests of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, resorts, short-term vacation rentals and campgrounds."
"Our goal really is to highlight the diverse and amazing landscapes of the eastern part of the state," Maas said.
The Badlands to Breaks to Beartooths idea is still in its earliest stage of development, however the intent of the final name and product is to give more visitors and residents throughout the state a reason to experience central and eastern Montana.
"People think of Montana and they think of mountains," Maas noted. "Montana is mountains, but it's also more than mountains. That's really the whole project in a nutshell; to showcase the more-than-mountains part of Montana."
The project, Maas added, is what is known in the tourism industry as a "destination development project," much like that of the Montana Dinosaur Trail or Glaciers to Geysers road trip map.
"We're connecting the dots between the ... different locations that fit the set parameters to be on the trail," she said. "That's loosely what we plan to follow with this project."
Although no official route for the new road trip map is established at this time, it will more than likely take travelers from the badlands of Makoshika State Park and Terry to the Missouri River breaks before ending up down near Red Lodge on the Beartooth Highway, creating somewhat a "triangle" of destinations.
"Our idea is to develop routing, road trip itineraries, that include those geographical elements," Maas said. "So again, for the visitor, even for our residents who haven't been to those locations, to highlight this more-than-mountains part of the state and how beautiful it is."
Based on the Tourism Grant Program reporting requirements, the completion deadline for the project is June 30 of 2024.
According to Maas, she intends to roll out the final product to the public by the first of April next year, just in time for what is known by tourism businesses as "the warm season;" Memorial Day to Labor Day.
"Our goal is to have this ready for those visitors who are planning their trips for summer of 2024," she said. "We need to be in front of them, whether it is February, March or April."
As Visit SEMT and its partners on the project continue to develop the idea and the actual product, Maas is excited to see how it connects the central and eastern regions of Montana into a single road trip map that both visitors and residents will enjoy for years to come.
"I am confident that this is going to be a really cool and amazing tourism product for these rural areas," Maas said. "It is designed to drive that traffic to the wider areas of Montana and to the small communities. Not all to one community, but to disperse it and guide our visitors."
Look for future reporting about Visit SEMT's use of the $70,000 Tourism Grant as the Badlands to Breaks to Beartooths product is developed over the next year.