Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $734 Million in Economic Benefit

Visitors take pictures of a black bear in Cades Cove
Visitors take pictures of a black bear in Cades Cove

Warren Bielenberg

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News Release Date: July 18, 2014

Contact: Dana Soehn, (865) 436-1207

Contact: Brent Everitt, (865) 436-1203

Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $734 Million in Economic Benefit

Report shows visitor spending supports 10,734 jobs in local economy

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 9,354,695 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734,086,600 in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains the most visited national park in the nation and we are pleased to be the stewards of this national park that welcomes so many visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Cindy MacLeod.  “The Smokies truly are ‘great’ in so many ways and we are thrilled that the park offers unique experiences that bring visitors back year after year.” 

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.  The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion. 

According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally most visitor spending 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). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report visit The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in North Carolina and Tennessee and how the NPS works with North Carolina and Tennessee communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go and


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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