Local communities owe much to their nearby national parks.
The National Park Service reports that in 2019 visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the national economy. That spending supported 340,500 jobs. Of those jobs, 278,000 occur in communities bordering national parks. The nearby towns also benefit from visitor spending: $21 billion total last year.
Over the past five years visitor spending near national parks increased by $4.1 billion. From just 2018 to 2019, spending increased by $800 million, according to a Park Service press release.
“The positive economic impacts of Yellowstone are essential to economies of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a press release from the park.
The sectors benefiting most from park proximity are lodging, restaurants, recreation and fuel. Yellowstone National Park saw visitors spend $169 million on lodging last year alone.
In 2019, Grand Teton National Park supported $630 million in visitor spending and 8,640 jobs in and around the park. Yellowstone claimed $507 million in spending and 7,000 jobs.
Denise Germann, public information officer for Grand Teton National Park, supposed the differences between Wyoming’s two parks are due to “the cost of doing business” in the communities around each park. The Tetons are closer to Jackson, for example, where lodging and dining cost more than in many other park communities.
It’s likely that in 2020 all national parks will see steep drops in their economic impact on local communities and the national economy. Grand Teton, for example, hired fewer seasonal employees than in previous years, directly impacting the job creation statistics for 2020. Germann attributes it to COVID-19.
“That’s following CDC and local state health guidance that individuals have to have their own bedroom, bathroom and kitchen area, so it makes a difference in the number of employees that we can house together,” Germann said.
But with things opening up following the pandemic shutdown, 2020 numbers are expected to bounce back steadily.