A new National Park Service report shows that 14.9 million visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2019 spent $1.1 billion in communities near the park. That spending supported 16,341 jobs in the area and had a cumulative benefit to the economy of $1.4 billion.
“Over the past several weeks, NPS staff have been working hard to safely increase access to Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park System which contributes to individual and collective physical and mental wellness,” Superintendent J.D. Lee said. “The parkway has a long history of connecting communities in our region and introducing our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.”
The report shows $21 billion of direct spending by more than 327 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 340,500 jobs nationally; 278,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $41.7 billion.
Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending, about $7.1 billion in 2019. The restaurant sector had the next greatest effects with $4.2 billion in economic output. Motor vehicle fuel expenditures were $2.16 billion with retail spending at $1.93 billion.
Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.
The report authors also produce an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added and output effects by sector for national, state and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.