Parks visitors spent $596M in Utah last year

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

Published: Tue, July 22, 2014, 3:15 p.m. MDT

 Big Bend at Zion National Park

Big Bend at Zion National Park

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gateway communities at Utah's national parks and monuments reap the economic benefits of visitors who spent $596 million last year in lodging, food, trinkets and admission fees.

A new report shows that overall, 9 million visitors helped to support 9,070 jobs that fueled $287 million in labor income for the Beehive State.

The report, released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, examined economic trends associated with visits to national parks and monuments across the country.

It notes that the National Park System received 273 million visitors in 2013 who spent $14.6 billion in local gateway communities, defined as those communities within 60 miles of a park. The spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in the gateway communities. The peer-reviewed analysis shows there was a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

In Utah, Zion National Park had visitation that generated $147 million for local communities such as Springdale, and an estimated 1,760 jobs are attributable to the park's nexus with the small community.

Cindy Purcell, acting superintendent at Zion National Park, said Zion has become a premier destination noted for its wide-ranging economic impacts.

"Zion National Park is truly a world destination. It has become a hub where people begin their vacations then branch out to experience the many other area attractions,” said Purcell. “Local communities help enhance the visitor experience by providing restaurant, lodging and guiding services. For every $1 invested in the National Park Service, visitor spending creates a return rate of $10.”

The report highlights the significance even small parks can have.

At Pipe Spring National Monument, located between Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, visitors spent $2.8 million in 2013 and helped support 39 local jobs, according to the report.

The monument, which sports a trio of sandstone buildings dating back as far as 1863, is 45 miles east of Hurricane and 15 miles west of Fredonia, Arizona.

The analysis tracked visitor spending by the nature of the stay — such as local day trips, if people camped at the park or stayed in a lodge or if they stayed in motels outside the park.

The 2013 report shows that most visitor spending was for lodging — 30 percent of expenditures — followed by food and beverages at 27 percent and fuel at 12 percent.

Spending patterns detailed in the report show the park system's vulnerability to extreme weather-related events such as drought, wildfires and storms.

Hurricane Sandy, which struck in October of 2012, nevertheless continued to cause problems in 2013 for nearly 70 parks that sustained damage. Castle Clinton and the Statue of Liberty national monuments, for example, remained closed until July 4, 2013.

The report also acknowledged the impacts of the government shutdown in 2013, which led to a systemwide decline in visitation of more than 6.4 million visitors and a loss in spending of $414 million.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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1. Schwa
South Jordan, UT,
July 22, 2014

It could have been higher if Senator Mike Lee hadn't shut down the federal government.

2. Red
San Antonia, TX,
July 22, 2014

It could be higher if the Park Rangers would actually try and be helpful when you are trying to make a reservation.

Specifically, Kolob Arch -Zions West Entrance. Please try to care about visitors.

Make a little effort to earn your $26 billion.


3. Demo Dave
Holladay, UT,
July 22, 2014

Governor Herbert and the legislature know that protected landscapes bring tourist dollars to Utah and yet they insist on destroying unprotected places by fracking and drilling them. Why don't we preserve the Book Cliffs, Governor, and make money by protecting the land instead of sacrificing it?

4. Utefan60
Salt Lake City, UT,
July 23, 2014

Sadly it would have been more had not Mike Lee and Ted Cruz shut down our government costing billions of dollars. I have dear friends that suffered financial loss due to Zion's being shut down and the loss of tourist dollars. They won't easily forget the damage that stunt pulled.

5. dale richards
Green River, Utah,
July 25, 2014

It wouldn't have made much difference if the parks were clocked or not our state parks
Still wouldn't have been given any money for proper up keep at the deterioration of our state parks. We will end up closing many like California has. Where does all the camping fees go anyway?