National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects

Research Project: 


Project Manager: 

John Brooks Biscayne National Park
Photo source: John Brooks, Biscayne National Park, NPS.

The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 401 sites across the nation, and serves as recreational destinations for visitors from across the nation and around the globe. On vacations or on day trips, park visitors spend money in the gateway communities surrounding park sites, which then generates and supports a considerable amount of economic activity within the local, regional, and national economies. The National Park Service requires estimates of the effects of visitor spending on these economies as key indicators of how parks benefit communities and the American public through visitation. This information is important for planning, management, budget formulation, policy analysis, and public outreach.

The objective of this project is to estimate the economic effects of spending by park visitors, and how this spending cycles through local gateway economies, generates business sales, and supports jobs and income. USGS economists have constructed a database of existing spending data for sampled park units, extrapolated this data to parks without existing spending data, compiled a database with park visitation estimates, and built a model to estimate the economic effects of visitor spending at the local, state, regional, and national level. USGS economists prepared the first two annual reports in 2014, presenting the 2012 and 2013 visitor spending estimates, respectfully, along with the associated estimates of local, state, regional, and national level economic effects. This is an ongoing project, and an analysis and report will be prepared annually. This project has a data visualization companion website, to access it please go to

Partners: Lynne Koontz, Bret Meldrum, and Bruce Peacock. Environmental Quality Division, Social Science Branch, National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO.