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Tourism to the Blue Ridge Parkway creates $1.3 billion in economic benefits 

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Last Updated on June 28, 2022 4:09 pm

(NC/VA) – A new National Park Service report shows that in 2021, 15.9 million park visitors spent an estimated $1.3 billion in local gateway regions while visiting Blue Ridge Parkway. That spending supported 17,900 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to local economies of $1.7 billion. 

“For generations, the Parkway has attracted millions of visitors who enjoy both the natural beauty and cultural heritage of our region, while contributing positively to the economy in our surrounding communities,” said Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout. “As our country moves through the varied impacts resulting from the pandemic, we are grateful that the Parkway continues to serve as a touchstone, reconnecting people with inspiring places of deep significance, while also supporting economic resiliency and vitality for local communities moving forward.”  

Originating as a public works project of the 1930s, the Parkway’s designed landscape was always intended to bring economic stimulation to the communities surrounding the Parkway. Today, outdoor recreation opportunities from hiking trails to scenic drives on the Parkway, in combination with the varied experiences found in Blue Ridge Parkway communities in North Carolina and Virginia, continues to attract millions of visitors each year. 

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists at the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report shows $20.5 billion of direct spending by more than 297 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 322,600 jobs nationally; 269,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $42.5 billion.  

As for the economics of visitor spending, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $7 billion in economic output nationally. The restaurants sector was had the second greatest effects, with $4.2 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: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.   

To learn more about all the national park sites in North Carolina and Virginia, and how the NPS works with local communities in these states, go to https://www.nps.gov/state/nc/index.htm or https://www.nps.gov/state/va/index.htm.  

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