Simply, America’s national parks are some of our greatest resources, beloved both by Americans and foreign visitors.
“National parks with their iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes represent the heart and soul of America,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in a press release announcing the economic importance of national parks to the national economy.
Of the 329,000 jobs supported by visitor spending, more than 268,000 jobs exist in gateway communities close to the parks, including hotels and motels, restaurants and cafes, tour operators, bike rental facilities, companies that supply uniforms and cleaning services, and more.
That includes such small towns as Seligman, Arizona, close to one of the entrances to Grand Canyon National Park, and Bar Harbor, Maine, close to Acadia National Park, and large cities such as New York City, home of the Gateway National Seashore area of New York and New Jersey.
According to the most recent National Park Service report, more than 318 million visitors spent $20.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a park in the National Park System.
More than 400 National Parks
With more than 400 national parks – at least one in every state – they are important natural, cultural and historic landscapes.
They “represent the heart and soul of America,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Smith.
“They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, especially for park gateway communities where millions of visitors each year find a place to sleep and eat, hire outfitters and guides and make use of other local services that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”
As a part of the report, visitor surveys were conducted at 19 parks with the results indicating that people spent more time in the parks, stayed longer in gateway communities and spent more money during their visits.
Visitation varies across the National Park System, from big parks like Blue Ridge Parkway to Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Montana. Blue Ridge attracted 14.6 million people who spent more than $1 billion and supported more than 15,900 jobs.
Grant Kohrs Ranch drew more than 26,000 visitors who spent more than $1.5 million in the area and supported 25 local jobs.
Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending totaling nearly $6.8 billion in 2018.
Food expenses are the second largest spending area with visitors spending $4 billion in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.
The expenditure report includes an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view annual, trend data.
National Park Visitor Spending Contributions to the U.S. Economy 2012-18
|Visitation:||Visitor Spending:||Jobs Supported:||Local Jobs:||Total Output:|
|2012:||282,765,682||$14.7 billion||242,712||201,040||$26.8 billion|
|2013:||273,630,895||$14.6 billion||237,599||197,343||$26.5 billion|
|2014:||292,800,082||$15.7 billion||276,960||235,600||$29.7 billion|
|2015:||307,247,252||$16.9 billion||295,339||252,030||$32 billion|
|2016:||330,971,689||$18.4 billion||318,000||271,544||$34.9 billion|
|2017:||330,882,751||$18.2 billion||306,000||255,900||$35.8 billion|
|2018:||318,211,833||$20.2 billion||329,000||268,195||$40.1 billion|