National park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the United States economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a peer-reviewed report released by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
“National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” Jarvis said. “While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs.”
National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.
Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.
“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” Jarvis said. “Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System.”
Jarvis said visitation so far this year indicates a rebound from 2013 and he expects a steady increase as excitement grows in advance of the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.
President Obama established a Centennial Initiative for the anniversary, a multi-year effort to invest wisely in the park system’s most important assets, use parks to enhance informal learning, engage volunteers, provide training opportunities for youth, and enhance the National Park Service’s ability to leverage partnerships to accomplish its mission.
National Park Visitor Spending Contributions to the U.S. Economy
|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|
The annual report, 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and by state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending and other statistics.
According to the 2013 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).
The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).