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West Glacier, MT – Late last month, the National Park Service released visitor spending numbers for the national park system. The report shows that 3 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2018 spent $344 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 5,230 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $484 million.
“Glacier National Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $20.2 billion of direct spending by more than 318 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 329,000 jobs nationally; 268,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $40.1 billion.
In 2018, lodging expenses accounted for the largest share of visitor spending, with about $6.8 billion total spent nationally and about $141 million spent in and around Glacier National Park. Food expenses were the second largest spending area, with visitors to restaurants and bars spending $4 billion nationally and about $55 million locally. Visitors spent another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores nationally, including $20.7 million locally.
Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs nationally and 1,510 jobs locally, while jobs created by restaurant spending included more than 61,000 jobs nationally and 963 local jobs. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs nationally and 307 jobs locally. Spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs nationally and 312 jobs in the local area.
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 also can view year-by-year trend data.
The 2018 Visitor Spending Effects analysis incorporated newly available survey data for Glacier National Park and 18 additional parks in the national park system. The survey was part of a pilot project to develop long-term, scientific monitoring and collection of visitor data during a park’s peak season. Previous Glacier spending was calculated by using generalized visitor spending data from other parks in the national park system.
The new survey data showed that people spent more time in Glacier National Park, stayed longer in gateway communities and spent more money during their visit. The updated data contributed to the 25 percent increase in overall estimated visitor spending for Glacier this year. The new data also showed an upward effect on visitor spending estimates for the State of Montana and for the NPS Intermountain Region.
To learn more about national parks in Montana and how the National Park Service works with Montana communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/montana.
Last updated: June 5, 2019