The Department of the Interior announced that visitor spending in communities near U.S. national parks in 2021 resulted in a $42.5 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 322,600 local jobs.

“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and community in America, as well as to the local economies of gateway communities that support our national parks,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland stated in a release. “As we continue to welcome families to our parks and public lands across the country, the Interior Department is committed to making investments in our lands and waters that will support tens of thousands of jobs, safeguard the environment and help ensure that national parks and public lands are ready to meet the challenges of climate change and increased visitation.”

According to the National Park Service report, 2021 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, approximately 297 million visitors spent $20.5 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park. Of the 322,600 jobs supported by visitor spending, 268,900 were in park gateway communities. Additional findings include:

  • Visitor spending in 2021 meant $14.6 billion in labor income and $24.3 billion in value-added;
  • Lodging saw the highest direct effect, with $7 billion in economic output directly contributing to this sector nationally; and
  • Restaurants saw the subsequent effects, with $4.2 billion in economic output directly contributing to this sector nationally.

The National Park Service also announced it would initiate a new socioeconomic monitoring project in 2022 that will survey park visitors in 24 parks yearly for the next ten years or longer. One of the early parks surveyed was Zion National Park in 2021, offering an updated picture of visitor spending.

“Zion National Park was one of the first parks where visitors were surveyed under the new method. The results showed that our previous estimates or ‘profiles’ of average visitors underestimated the time they spent in the park and gateway communities, and we underestimated the amount of money they spent during their trips to the park,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “The new survey information will enable park managers to improve the visitor experience further and guide how to reach and engage with people who have yet to visit a national park.”

Photo courtesy More Than Just Parks/Zion National Park