Smokies tourism created $1.38 billion in economic benefits during ‘incredibly difficult year’

Tourism: 2021 & Moving Forward

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Just more than 12 million visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year spent $1 billion in communities near the park, according a new National Park Service report released Tuesday.

That spending supported 14,707 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $1.38 billion.

A similar report covering the year prior shows the results are steady despite the pandemic, with 12 million visitors spending $1.1 billion that year.

“In spite of an incredibly difficult year in the world and in our neighboring communities, we are proud to have worked alongside our communities to serve visitors to this area in 2020,” said Superintendent Cassius  Cash. “We remain committed to safely serving visitors in our communities and the park as they continue to explore our area and find the amazing resources the Smokies have to offer.” 

The report shows 98.3% of visitor spending was made by non-local visitors to the Smokies, with 44% in the North Carolina side and 56% in Tennessee. Lodging is the most directly affected sector in communities around the Smokies, at $338 million, followed by restaurants at $192 million. Take a look at the data available in this link.

Report authors also produced 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 through this link on the NPS Social Science Program page on NPS.gov. The printed form of the report can be found in this link.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report shows $14.5 billion of direct spending by more than 237 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 234,000 jobs nationally; 194,400 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $28.6 billion. 

To learn more about national parks in North Carolina and Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with communities in both states to help preserve history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/TENNESSEE or www.nps.gov/NORTHCAROLINA

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