Report says National Park tourism generates $677 million in Washington economy

The Chronicle

A report recently released by the National Park Service shows that 8.4 million visitors traveled to national parks in Washington last year and contributed significantly to the state’s economy.

According to the report, those travelers spent $562 million in Washington in 2017 as part of their visits to national parks. The report also found that national parks operations support more than 6,500 jobs, for a cumulative influx of $677 million to the state economy.

“The national parks of Washington state attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Martha Lee, acting regional director for the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region, in a press release. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long 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 our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

In Washington there are 15 national parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park. Olympic National Park is the 13th most visited park in the nation, generating some $279 million in economic contributions. At Mount Rainier National Park, 1.4 million visitors contributed $63.5 million to the economy. Other federal lands in Washington include Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, North Cascades National Park Complex, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

The peer reviewed study was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report stated that across the country $18.2 billion of direct spending can be attributed to 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park each year. That spending is thought to support 306,000 jobs nationally, with 255,900 of those jobs located in gateway communities, like Packwood, Morton, and Mineral in East Lewis County. The report states that the cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy equates to $35.8 billion.

Overnight accomodations accounted for the largest percentage of economic output with $5.5 billion in spending and 49,000 jobs. Restaurants received the next greatest influx with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 60,500 jobs.

According to the 2017 report, visitors spent 32.9 percent of their money on hotels, motels, or camping spots. Food and beverage expenses accounted for 27.5 percent of visitor spending while gas and oil accounted for 12.1 percent of spending. Souvenirs and other expenses accounted for 10.1 percent of visitor spending, admission and fees took up 10 percent of visitor spending and local transportation accounted for 7.5 percent of spending by national park tourists.