GATLINBURG, Tenn. – A new National Park Service report shows 11,338,893 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent $922,947,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,942 jobs in the local area.
National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, with every dollar invested returning $10 to the economy.
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows a $1.2 billion cumulative economic benefit to communities within 60 miles of the Smokies. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending near the Smokies was for lodging and camping (35 percent) followed by food and beverages (24 percent), gas and oil (11 percent), local transportation (11 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent), and recreation industries (9 percent).
Report authors this year produced an interactive tool where users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies, and year-by-year trend data.
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 across the U.S. which supported 306,000 jobs nationally; more than 255,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging and 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).
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, visit www.nps.gov/Tennessee.
Photo credit: Kristina Plaas