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Blog

Visitors Spend $922.9 Million in Smokies Gateways

leah kirk

smoky-mountain-angler-9-800x529.jpg

A new report from the National Park Service shows that 11.3 million visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent a combined $922.9 million in communities near the park, supporting 13,900 jobs.

“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.”

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. The figures come from a peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis completed by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.

Numbers for the Smokies were down slightly compared to the figures for 2016, which showed 11.3 million visitors spending $942.7 million and supporting 14,700 jobs. However, they’re higher than the 2015 figures, which showed visitors spending $874 million in parkside communities. Overall in the Park Service, 330 million park visitors spent $18.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park nationwide, supporting 306,000 jobs. More than 255,000 of these jobs were found in gateway communities.

An interactive tool displaying results of the analysis is online at http://go.nps.gov/vse.

National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1.46 million visitors to Shenandoah National Park in 2017 spent $95.8 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,204 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $126 million.

 “Shenandoah National Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Jennifer Flynn. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; 255,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion.

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