Glacier National Park visitors add $179 million to Montana economy

2014-07-23T09:46:00Z 2014-07-24T00:45:02Z Glacier National Park visitors add $179 million to Montana economyBy DAVID ERICKSON Missoulian The Billings Gazette
July 23, 2014 9:46 am  • 

Last year, 2.2 million people visited Glacier National Park and they spent nearly $179 million in the area, according to a new National Park Service report. That spending supported 2,824 jobs in the area. Of the total visitors, 2,075,000 were non-local tourists.

Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow said the report indicates national park tourism returns $10 for every $1 invested across the country.

“Glacier National Park plays a critical role as an economic driver in Montana,” he said.

Statewide, 4.28 million people visited national parks and spent a total of nearly $400 million in 2013.

The peer-reviewed report, called the Visitor Spending Analysis, was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz. The report found that nationally, 273.6 million visitors to national parks spent $14.6 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending at national parks in the U.S. was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).

Nationwide, the visitor spending at national parks supported more than 237,000 jobs, with more than 197,000 jobs found in gateway communities – such as Columbia Falls – and that spending had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

Nationally, the largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

Glacier National Park had 32,248 fewer visitors than average last October due to the federal government shutdown, resulting in a loss of $2.6 million in tourist spending in the area, according to a recent Economic Shutdown Report conducted by the National Park Service.

From 2010-2012, the average number of visitors in Glacier in October was 58,213, and that month usually brings in an average of $4.7 million in spending. However, last October, only 25,965 people visited the park, 55 percent fewer people than average, and they spent only $2.1 million.

Due to a lack of appropriations and a budget impasse in Congress, all federal agencies and lands in the U.S. were closed down from Oct. 1-17 last year.

The report is available at nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm and includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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