Which park units generate the most spending and jobs?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Earlier this week I mentioned that the National Park Service had published a report that measures the economic impact that national parks have on local communities. Today I wanted to dig a little deeper into the data to see which parks generate the most spending and the most jobs for their respective communities.

Which parks generate the most spending by visitors?

The chart below shows the top 10 park units in terms of overall spending generated by visitors in 2011. I was a little surprised by these results. Generally speaking, I figured that the park units with the most visitors would also have the highest amount of total spending by its visitors. Not so. For example: although the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ranks 32nd in the total number of visitors for 2011, it ranked 9th in the total amount of spending generated by visitors. Moreover, only five parks that ranked in the top 10 for visitors in 2011, also ranked in the top 10 for visitor spending:

Which park units supported the most jobs?

This analysis was more in line with what I expected. Generally speaking, the park units with the most visitors tended to support the most jobs for the surrounding local communities:

Great Smoky Mountains NP  11,418
Grand Canyon NP  7,361
Grand Teton NP  6,352
Yellowstone NP  5,041
Yosemite NP  5,003
Blue Ridge PKWY  4,379
Acadia NP  2,970
Glen Canyon NRA  2,755
Rocky Mountain NP  2,742
Denali NP & Preserve  2,669

Which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis?

Finally, I wanted to see which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis. These results were quite interesting. Each of the park units making the top 10 in this category were in Alaska. At first glance you might think that this must seem like some statistical anomaly. However, given how remote each of these parks are from civilization, the cost of services is likely far greater than in the lower 48. I would also guess that transportation costs are likely the biggest drivers in spending. My guess is that many of these parks have local airports and local air services that benefit from park visitors.

Yukon-Charley Rivers NPRES  $1,144
Denali NP & PRES  $394
Aniakchak NM & PRES  $368
Bering Land Bridge NPRES  $345
Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES  $345
Cape Krusenstern NM  $345
Kobuk Valley NP  $344
Noatak NPRES  $344
Lake Clark NP & PRES  $344
Katmai NP & PRES  $257

Not on the list above, but ranked 11th, is Grand Teton National Park, which makes it the highest ranked park outside of Alaska in terms of spending on a per visitor basis ($169).

The George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington DC has the distinction of having the lowest amount of spending on a per visitor basis - only $4.63.

The lowest ranked national park is Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska. On average, visitors only spend $10.63. Well, you might be asking yourself why this park isn't ranked much higher - given that it's in Alaska. According to the park website; "Most visitors to Glacier Bay see the park from large cruise ships with thousands of passengers. These visitors do not go ashore in the park; instead National Park Service naturalists board the ship to share their knowledge about the park and its wildlife during a day-long cruise in the bay."

I would interpret this to mean that the NPS doesn't count these dollars as being spent in a local community.

To view the entire NPS report, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

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