Visitor spending near national parks is at an all-time high, boosting the economy

A new report shows visitors to national parks last year spent a record amount in surrounding communities, giving those areas a major economic boost.

According to the Interior Ministry report, Visitors spent nearly $24 billion last year on expenses like hotels, restaurants and gas around the parks — a 16% increase from 2021. Shelter accounted for the largest share of spending — $9 billion nationally. Restaurants are next with $4.6 billion.

„Visit to national parks would be more challenging without people in local communities to support the tourism industry,” said Naaman Horn, who works in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Park Service. „They provide essential services to visitors to national parks.”

Visitors to the parks in the Mountain West spend a lot of money. Utah ranked third in the nation in visitor spending, while Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming rounded out the top 15, according to the report.

Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks in the Mountain West drive visitor spending $759 million and $672 million respectively in communities near parks. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming are not far behind. It comes as many national parks have seen Back to pre-pandemic viewership numbersThere are many popular parks in the Mountain West.

The report also estimated that this spending supported nearly 380,000 jobs and provided $50.3 billion in economic output.

„Not only do they spend money and build the economy, (they) bring jobs to our local areas to support the people who visit the national parks,” Horn said.

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Visitation levels are up for many parks, though not all are seeing huge crowds. National parks received 312 million recreational visits last year — a 5% increase from 2021, the report said. But some parks, such as Yellowstone, have seen declines in attendance — primarily because of a Historic flood event There last June.

„We’re excited to have as much interest as usual from visitors to our national parks and to see some of the amazing places across the Mountain West,” said Horne.

But Emily Douce of the National Parks Conservation Association senses a problem. He said there is a Republican-led House of Representatives Proposed Budget 2024 It would cut the National Park Service’s funding by 12.5%, or $433 million. The association predicted the cut 1,000 NPS will lead to job loss.

„It’s ironic to see that our parks are so loved and loved on both sides of the aisle, yet the House of Representatives proposed severe budget cuts,” he said. „This is devastating for our parks and the visitors who enjoy them.”

Without proper funding, parks can’t make the maintenance and improvements needed to make them sought-after destinations, Dowse said. This could further affect surrounding businesses.

„These budgets provide resources for staff who provide education to visitors or maintenance on our trails and education to cultural and natural resource conservation professionals,” he said. „As attendance increases, they need those rangers on the ground to accompany their visitors and protect the resources.”

Horn, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, would not comment on the House proposal, but expressed hope that economic incentives from visitors would continue.

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„I imagine there will always be interest in visiting our national parks, and that public interest will be fairly steady as the years go on,” he said. „National parks are a major driver of the economy across the United States, and bring money and visitors to areas where tourism is a major economic factor.”

The House and Senate will negotiate the 2024 federal budget through the fall.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KNW in New Mexico, with support from regional affiliates. Funding is provided in part to the Mountain West News Bureau Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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