Although most visitors to America’s national parks come to enjoy the natural beauty of the parks themselves, their visit doesn’t begin and end at the park entrance. They’re also likely to pass through one of the countless towns and cities that surround the parks, and those visits can be a boon for the local economy. From spending money on hotels to shopping for provisions and more, visitors to America’s national parks are big spenders outside the parks’ borders.
A new report from the federal government highlights the massive impact that spending can have. According to the study, last year national parks visitors spent over $20 billion in communities within 60 miles of national parks, the AP reports.
Visitors had a strong impact at parks around the country. At Yellowstone, the fifth most-popular park by number of visits, travelers spent almost $513 million in the communities surrounding the park in 2018. The park logged 4.1 million visitors last year, which helped support almost 7,100 local jobs, the AP reports. The same was true in other parks and NPS-managed recreation sites, including less popular ones. The 68,000 people who visited Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming had a combined spending of $30 million, which supported over 400 jobs in the area.
The nationwide figures are even more impressive. Last year, 318 million people visited parks in the NPS system, and those visits helped support 329,000 jobs across the country. The top spending categories for parks visitors were lodging and food and drink. Travelers spent nearly $7 billion on places to stay, and dropped $4 billion in restaurants and bars located near national parks.
So next time you head out to a national park for a hike or camping trip, don’t forget to spend a few bucks on a cold beer or a burger in town, too—because it’s not just the wildlife that benefits from the NPS.