Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Recreation Management

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Norma P. Nickerson

Commitee Members

Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Kara Grau, Thomas Sullivan


Beartooth Highway, destination image, economic impacts, tourism


University of Montana


Many tourism destination managers know who their visitors are and how they are perceived by them. However, when new destinations begin to take shape, understanding these perceptions and meeting the expectations of visitors can be a difficult task. Destination image provides the ability to explore the perceptions of visitors at a tourism place. One such place the Beartooth Highway in south-central Montana and north-central Wyoming is a scenic byway that reaches nearly 11,000 feet in elevation. Previously, little to no research has been conducted regarding travelers that frequent this region. The purpose of this study was to understand the destination image and economic impacts of nonresident travelers on the Beartooth Highway. Nonresidents were travelers who did not live in the counties of the Beartooth Highway (Park County, MT, Carbon County, MT and Park County, WY). A two-part survey method was implemented. First, an on- site visitor survey was conducted for all travelers along the highway. Second, a mailback survey was given to all nonresidents travelers. The survey included statements about the Beartooth Highway, trip spending categories, motivations for traveling the highway, and activities participated in while visiting. Visitors were intercepted at the three exit points of the Beartooth Highway. In total, 4,285 nonresident visitors were intercepted along the highway. Of those, 3,251 nonresidents were given mailback surveys. The survey was completed and returned by 1,473 respondents for a response rate of 45 percent. Results from the study show that visitors perceive the Beartooth Highway in positive light. Forty-four percent of respondents stated they were first-time visitors. Moreover, visitors who had a higher degree of loyalty to the destination had significant differences in many of the cognitive and affective image variables. Nonresident spending contributed over $50 million in economic impacts to the local communities in the four month time period. Because visitors perceive the place as a destination rather than simply a highway, it is recommended that more collaborative management be implemented. The highway should also be marketed and managed with these results in mind to ensure the preservation of the unique characteristics and qualities of the region.



© Copyright 2013 Jacob Daniel Jorgenson