Great Smoky Mountains National Park tourism added $734 million to the economies of communities surrounding the park and supported more than ten thousand jobs in 2013.
Spending by visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vital part of our local economy here in Sevier County. Residents, especially those in the hospitality industry, depend heavily upon the influx of tourists and the money they spend on lodging, dining, shopping and attractions. The local governments also rely upon the sales tax revenue generated by tourism spending.
The National Park Service released a report this month detailing the number of visitors to our nation’s parks in 2013 and how their spending contributed to the economy in park “gateway communities,” those within 60 miles of the park.
Last year, 9,354,695 people visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spent $734 million in gateway communities. However, that number is down from $742 million spent by 9,685,829 park visitors to the area in 2012. The report did not differentiate the amount of park visitor spending which occurred in Tennessee versus North Carolina.
Nationally, visitors spent their money on:
- Lodging (30.3%)
- Food and Beverage (27.3%)
- Gas and Oil (12.1%)
- Admission and Fees (10.3%)
- Souvenirs and other expenses (10%)
“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 in a release. “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.”
U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber, along with economist Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service, conducted the analysis. They concluded that the government shutdown in October 2013 and long-term park closures related to Hurricane Sandy significantly contributed to a 3.2% decline in park attendance nationwide.
According to another report released by the National Park Service in February entitled Effects of the October 2013 Government Shutdown on National Park Service Visitor Spending in Gateway Communities, the sixteen-day shutdown of the federal government resulted in 329,104 less visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a loss of $25.6 million in visitor spending to communities surrounding the park.