National Parks Are Major Job Creators


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According to a new National Park Service report, visitor spending in communities near national parks in 2017 resulted in a $35.8 billion benefit to the nation’s economy—a nearly $1 billion increase from 2016—and supported 306,000 jobs.

More than 330 million visitors in 2017 spent $18.2 billion in the communities near national parks. Of the 306,000 jobs supported by that spending, more than 255,000 were in those same communities that lie within 60 miles of a park.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This report illustrates the incredible​ economic​ value of our national parks,​ and further shows the value in President Trump’s plan to rebuild park infrastructure,​” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said.

“​National parks provide us a gateway to the outdoors, family ​recreation​ opportunities,​ and​ connect us to​ our history and heritage, ​and they are extremely vital to local economies all across the nation. ​Parks provide jobs and fuel ​the outdoor recreation and tourism economy. But as parks remain a popular destination for American families, we must continue to ​address deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs to ensure ​parks remain world-class destinations. One of the ways ​the President and I are doing this is by partnering with Congress on a bipartisan bill to address the maintenance backlog.”

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Parks are priceless not only for their intrinsic natural beauty and historical significance, but also for the economic benefits they provide to communities across the country,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.

“The investments we make in our national parks protect cherished places while promoting community and economic development.”

Visitor spending varied across the National Park System, from big parks like Yellowstone National Park which attracted 4.1 million people and supported more than 7,350 jobs, to smaller parks like Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site that attracted more than 45,000 visitors and supported 43 jobs.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The report shows that 15,154,285 visitors to national parks in Utah in 2017. Their spending resulted in 17,596 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the Utah economy of $1.6 billion.

“From Golden Spike to Canyonlands, the 13 national park units in Utah attract visitors from within the state, across the country, and around the world,” said NPS Intermountain Region Director Sue Masica, in a prepared statement.

“Whether they are out for an afternoon at Arches, a school field trip to Timpanogos Cave, or a week in Zion on family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way. This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy—returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service—and a big factor in the state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s 13 national parks service sites include Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks; Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave national monuments, Golden Spike National Historic Site and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The lodging sector received the highest direct contributions with $5.5 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 49,000 jobs. The restaurants sector received the next greatest direct contributions with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 60,500 jobs.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging/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).

“National parks connect us with nature and help tell America’s story,” said Dan Smith, Deputy Director of the National Park Service.

“They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who fill hotels and restaurants, hire outfitters and rely on other local businesses that help drive a vibrant tourism, and outdoor recreation industry.”

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

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