2013 REPORT: National parks pump millions into state economy

More than 7.3 million visitors to national parks in Washington spent $430.8 million in 2013. Those expenditures supported 5,269 jobs in the state, according to a new National Park Service report.

The report showed $14.6 billion of direct spending nationwide by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion, according to the report.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was done by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.

The 2013 nationwide economic figures are somewhat lower than the 2012 results. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending nationwide was for lodging (30.3 percent), food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

Washington was able to buck the downward trend, despite a drop in visitors in 2013 compared with 2012. In 2012, there were 7.5 million visitors to national park units in Washington and they spent $419 million which supported 5,164 jobs.

The national park units in Washington are Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, San Juan Island National Historical Park and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park-Seattle. There also are the main unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and parts of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Nez Perce National Historical Park and Minidoka National Historic Site.

“The national parks of Washington state attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Pacific West Regional director Chris Lehnertz said in a prepared statement. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a monthlong 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 Washington’s economy as well.”

To view the report, go to nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.