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Tourism up in summer,
September also

by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
October 8, 1998

Tourism was up this summer in the Seeley Swan, and the increase continued through September.

"We've never had such a good September," Marilyn Peterson, owner of the Emily A Bed and Breakfast at Seeley Lake said recently, adding that the "fabulous" summer weather definitely spilled over into the fall.

Peterson echoed comments from other business owners who saw increased tourism in July, August and September.

Even the downtown businesses, such as Rovero's, saw increases into September.

"September is when the tourists are really enjoying this valley," according to Addriene Marx at Rovero's. She explained that her business has seen a steady and consistent increase since opening in 1995 and that the tourist season this year was "very good."

At the Double Arrow Lodge, rainy weather in June slowed things at the golf course, but the good weather in July and August brought above average numbers of visitors.

"We're up quite a bit," Dianna Plum explained on Monday. And the Golf Course, which is in its fifth year of operation, was "way up," she said, adding that the "phenomenal" weather in July and August more than made up for the rain in June, she said. The new conference center has also brought more people to the lodge, she said.

In the Condon area, Holland Lake Lodge also saw an increase in visitors.

"Our summer was very successful," John Wolhlfeil, owner/manager of Holland Lake Lodge said on Monday. Wohlfeil and his business partner, Bob Nagell from San Diego, puchased the lodge in January of 1997. They saw a 30% increase in business in 1997, and Wohlfeil said that things are looking up again this year. "So far, we're up another 25% in 1998," he explained.

Marilyn Peterson of the Emily A commented on why she believes tourism is up in the Seeley Swan.

"The Chamber of Commerce is more active, and we do a lot of co-op advertising," she said. "I think this whole area is helping itself more than it ever has."

And, she explained, area business owners are becoming very service-oriented.

"Everybody wants to come to Montana, but they just don't know what to do when they get here," she said. When local business owners take the time to help arrange things like dinner reservations, trail rides, canoe rentals and fishing trips for visitors, people appreciate it.

"Service is truly important," she said.

Local businesses also participate in regional trade shows and advertising in cooperation with the Glacier Country tourism board. Peterson also acknowledged that magazine articles, like the one in Sunset Magazine in August, also help bring people to the area. She said many business owners are also pleased that the Seeley Swan is gaining a favorable reputation as a nice family place.

"We have such great people who come and stay here," she said.

At the Double Arrow Lodge, Dianna Plum said that Lodge clientele this summer was a "nice mix of families and couples." The Double Arrow Lodge hosted 12 weddings during the past year, and also hosted several family reunions this summer. People are already booking ahead for next year.

"I don't believe I have an open summer weekend when I could book a wedding for next summer," Plum explained.

Advance reservations are similar at Holland Lake Lodge, where owners hosted 10 weddings and several family reunions last year and say they are already 50% booked for the 1999 summer season.

Looking toward winter, business owners hesitate to predict the weather, but most are optimistic that tourists will come.

"It's a little too early to tell, but we're expecting a good winter," according to Dianna Plum. "People book ahead for winter, but not as far ahead as for summer," she explained.

Holland Lake Lodge, which maintains 15 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, is also optimistic about winter tourism. The Lodge plans to stay open all winter, offering three, five, and seven day vacation packages. According to John Wohlfeil, the Lodge is also currently undergoing remodeling.

"We're redecorating all the rooms in the Lodge upstairs and restoring all of the cabins," he said. "It'll be rustic wonderful," he said.

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