A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 12.9 million visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2022 spent $2.1 billion in communities near the park. That spending supported 32,590 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $3.3 billion.
“Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, we safeguard these special places and share their stories with more than 300 million visitors every year. The impact of tourism to national parks is undeniable: bringing jobs and revenue to communities in every state in the country and making national parks an essential driver to the national economy,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.
The 2022 Visitor Spending Effects analysis incorporates newly available survey data for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Previous spending estimates for the park were calculated by using generalized trip and spending data from other parks in the National Park System. The new survey data revealed that people stayed longer in gateway communities and spent more money during their visits compared to the generalized estimates. This year the analysis also attributes a more conservative portion of time and spending if Great Smoky Mountains National Park was not the primary reason for visiting the local area. Overall, the 2022 visitor spending estimates more accurately reflect local visitor spending patterns, as well as changes in inflation and visitation.
“This data gives us an even clearer picture of the positive economic impacts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in both Tennessee and North Carolina,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We’re proud to care for a national park that provides incredible opportunities for learning and recreation, creates jobs in nearby communities and contributes to local economies.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists at the National Park Service. The report shows $23.9 billion of direct spending by nearly 312 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 378,400 jobs nationally; 314,600 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $50.3 billion.
As for the economics of visitor spending, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $9 billion in economic output nationally. The restaurant sector had the second greatest effects, with $4.6 billion in economic output nationally.
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: Visitor Spending Effects – Economic Contributions of National Park Visitor Spending – Social Science (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).
To learn more about national parks in Tennessee and North Carolina and how the National Park Service works with local communities in these states to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to Tennessee (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) and North Carolina (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).