Tourism Along Blue Ridge Parkway Creates $1.4 Billion in Economic Benefits

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The view from the Roanoke Mountain Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 14.9 million visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2019 spent $1.1 Billion in communities near the park. That spending supported 16,341 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to local economies of $1.4 Billion.

“Over the past several weeks, NPS staff have been working hard to safely increase access to Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park System which contributes to individual and collective physical and mental wellness,” said Superintendent J.D. Lee. “We welcome visitors back to the park and are excited to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. The parkway has a long history of connecting communities in our region and introducing our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $21 billion of direct spending by more than 327 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 340,500 jobs nationally; 278,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $41.7 billion.

Lodging expenses  account for the largest share of  visitor spending, about $7.1 billion in 2019. The restaurant sector had the next greatest effects with $4.2 billion in economic output. Motor vehicle fuel expenditures were $2.16 billion with retail spending at $1.93 billion.

Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.

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 national parks in North Carolina and 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 .