Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport reflects on changes from 9/11

The west wing ticket counter check-in and stairs leading up to the TSA security checkpoints at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

BELGRADE, Mont. – The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport has broken its 2019 record for most travelers in a calendar year, and local businesses across the Gallatin Valley have felt both positive and some unforeseen negative impacts.

Airport Director Brian Sprenger said for the 12-month period ending on Sept. 30 they handled 852,000 departing passengers and a combined 1.7 million breaking their 1.6 million travel record in 2019.

For the first time in park history, Yellowstone National Park hosted over 4 million visitors in one year and according to Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Daryl Schliem hotels in Yellowstone Country have been booked out for weeks with soaring prices on stays accounting for nearly 40% of Montana’s gross lodging tax revenue.

The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport added flights from Southwest Airlines this year along with a record number of summer destinations, and Sprenger says they expect another 20-30% increase in passengers for holiday travel on the way.

Positive financial impacts are being felt by local businesses in the area after the height of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, but Schliem said while more travelers may translate to more money, we are also seeing some of the constraints it's causing.

“Overall, I think economy-wise you can smile and be happy, but on the other side of it we have some serious concerns when it comes to workforce housing, daycare and eventually were going to have to look at public transportation,” Schliem said.

According to the Big Sky Multiple Listing Service Market Watch provided by the Gallatin Association of Realtors, the latest local market update report for Gallatin County in September 2021 saw the inventory of homes for sale down to 201 and they are only staying on the market for 20 about days.

Community organizations like the Human Resource Development Council are right now building a “Housing First Village” of tiny homes along with rerouting Streamline bus services to build more affordable housing and addressing public transportation.

Family Promise of Gallatin Valley and Community Health Partners are finishing up a community development for affordable housing, childcare service and medical clinics for the growing region.

“Luckily all of the money turns over several times, when somebody buys that ticket to come here, fills that gas tank when they pull into your community… so it’s been a good year for us but it’s been what I call a stressful year as far as our business owners,” Schliem said.

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