Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bad News Fails to Harm Montana Tourism

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bad News Fails to Harm Montana Tourism

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- It's time to plan my vacation. And, for some strange reason, I've been thinking about Montana. Just a subliminal thing, I guess.

"We are on the screen and on the radio and in the paper quite a lot these days," said Victor Bjornberg, spokes-man for Travel Montana, which promotes tourism on behalf of the state commerce department. "We've been tracking inquiries to our tourism line.... Calls are up."

Yep. It's amazing what some bombs and a cache of weapons will do to boost awareness of your humble state. Montana is getting an amount of media attention some states would kill for, though, obviously they would prefer their residents didn't.

Even without Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski of Lincoln, Mont., getting busted in the western part of the state and the federal agents' standoff with the Freemen extremists near Jordan, Mont., in the east, Montana's toll-free information line -- (800) VISIT MT or 847-4868 -- was fielding about 2,000 calls a day. Most were in response to ads promoting fishing, hunting, horseback riding and the scenic vistas.

"And people now are not asking if it's safe to come to Montana, which is good news," Bjornberg said from his office in Helena, Mont. "What we've been telling people is that these are just isolated incidents. The (Freemen) situation is in an especially isolated part of the state."

Of course, compared to Southern California, all parts of Montana are isolated. There are fewer than 900,000 people spread over 150,000 square miles, or about six people per square mile. We have more doughnut shops per square mile than that.

Montanans, like most people, are wary of us Californians. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that they are very tolerant of neighbors who keep to themselves.

Ted Turner and Jane Fonda now have a ranch up there. Jim Nabors and Andie McDowell also have homes. …

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