A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 11,338,893 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent $922,947,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,942 jobs in the local area. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, with every dollar invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returning $10 to the economy.
“We are glad to work alongside our business communities in helping create lifelong memories and traditions that bring people to our area year after year,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While our gateway communities benefit from visitor spending, they also provide a critical role in shaping the overall impression of a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows a $1.2 billion cumulative economic benefit to communities within 60 miles of the Smokies. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending near the Smokies was for lodging and camping (35 percent) followed by food and beverages (24 percent), gas and oil (11 percent), local transportation (11 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent), and recreation industries (9 percent).
Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.
The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by over 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park across the nation. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; over 255,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging and camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in North Carolina or Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with North Carolina and Tennessee communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/NorthCarolina or www.nps.gov/Tennessee.