KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A report by the National Park Service found Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors spent $2.1 billion in nearby communities in 2022, which is said to have supported 32,590 jobs and brought a benefit of $3.3 billion to the local community.
“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 report, called the 2022 Visitor Spending Effects analysis, used newly available survey data for the park. The NPS said that previous spending estimates were based on generalized trip and spending data from other national parks. The new data reveals that people stayed longer in gateway communities and spent more money than the generalized estimates suggested.
“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.”
Nationally, the report shows that nearly 312 million park visitors spent $23.9 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 378,400 jobs across the United States, with 314,600 of those jobs found in gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $50.3 billion.
In terms of the economic impact 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.
The report authors also created an interactive tool that allows people to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value-added, and output effects by sector for national, state and local economies.