A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 4.6 million visitors to Grand Canyon National Park in 2013 spent $476 million in communities near the park, which produced 6,238 local jobs.
The Grand Canyon remains the state’s biggest tourist draw, but the study demonstrates the impact of such well-known attractions for tourist dependent rural economies like Payson.
The biggest tourist draws for Rim Country remain Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which draws about 80,000 visitor’s annually and Fossil Creek, which draws about 100,000 visitors annually. Tonto Natural Monument overlooking Roosevelt Lake also remains an important tourist draw.
Unfortunately, the US Forest Service is considering several Fossil Creek management plans that would close off almost all access to the creek from Rim Country.
However, the Grand Canyon study demonstrates the crucial role big-name tourist draws play in sustaining a rural economy.
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.
U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz did the peer reviewed study for the National Park Service.
Nationally, the report documented $14.6 billion of direct spending 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 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by 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).
To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.
To learn more about national parks in Arizona and how the National Park Service works with Arizona communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/arizona.