As the National Park Service moves closer to its second century, one of the key indicators of how parks are doing, and how the NPS is fulfilling its mission, is the economic impact that national parks have on America’s economy. According to a report compiled by Michigan State University, every dollar spent by the National Park Service, through Congressional appropriations, results in a $10 benefit to the national economy.
Using data gathered from parks and public data, economists at Michigan State examined the impacts visitor spending has on the local economy in terms of sales, income, and jobs in a report published yesterday called Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation, 2011. The information contained in this report will be used for planning, concessions management, budget justifications, policy analysis, and marketing.
According to the report, the National Park System received 278.9 million recreation visits in 2011, while park visitors spent $12.95 billion in local gateway regions (defined as within roughly 60 miles of a park). In total, park visitor spending supported 252,000 (mostly) local jobs.
The four local economic sectors most directly affected by visitor spending are lodging, restaurants, retail trade, and recreation and entertainment. Spending from these sources supported 45,200 jobs in restaurants and bars, 34,100 jobs in lodging sectors, 15,500 jobs in the retail and wholesale trade, and 20,000 jobs in recreation and entertainment.
Visitors staying overnight outside the park (in motels, hotels, cabins, and bed & breakfasts) accounted for 54.9% of the total spending. About half (48%) of the spending was for lodging and meals, 21.4% for gas and local transportation, 9.7% for recreation and entertainment, 8.1% for groceries, and 12.7% for other retail purchases.
Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park spent roughly $196,127,000 in the surrounding communities in 2011. This spending added 2,742 jobs to local communities.
For comparison purposes, here's a look at the amount of money spent, and the jobs generated for some of the other national parks and monuments in Colorado:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: $8,436,000 (total spending) | 106 jobs
Colorado National Monument: $23,251,000 (total spending) | 295 jobs
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve: $10,770,000 (total spending) | 134 jobs
Mesa Verde National Park: $43,382,000 (total spending) | 551 jobs
Dinosaur National Monument: $7,671,000 (total spending) | 92 jobs
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument: $3,245,000 (total spending) | 39 jobs
To view the entire NPS report, please click here.