As the summer season officially started this past holiday weekend, visitation to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2015 is already up over 11% from last year. Based on recently released 2014 visitor spending numbers, increased visitation on the Parkway often means increased economic impact to neighboring communities. The current National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 13,941,750 visitors to Blue Ridge Parkway in 2014 spent $863,528,700 in communities near the park. That spending supported 14,020 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of over$1.1 billion.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Mark Woods. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. 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. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz. The report shows $15.7 billion of direct spending by 292.8 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 277,000 jobs nationally; 235,600 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $29.7 billion.
According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.6 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.3 percent), gas and oil (11.9 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.9 percent).
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 North Carolina or Virginia and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/northcarolina or www.nps.gov/virginia.
Over 120 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the High Country, and a total of 252 miles runs through western North Carolina.