May 5, 2016

Study: Visitors spent $890 million around Wyoming's national parks in 2015

Tourists contributed millions of dollars to local economies while exploring Wyoming’s national parks last year, the National Park Service says.

In 2015, park visitors spent an estimated $890.2 million in gateway communities while visiting Wyoming’s national parks. According to last week’s report from the U.S. Geological Survey and Park Service, that supported a total of 12,800 jobs.

The largest chunk of that economic impact came from Yellowstone National Park, the most popular destination.

In 2015, visitors to Yellowstone spent an estimated $493.6 million in communities, up from $421 million the year before. The report says visitors' spending supported 7,737 jobs in 2015.

These visitors to Yellowstone National Park's Fishing Bridge were among the millions who spent an estimated $493 million in communities around the park last year.

In 2015, there were more than 4 million visits to Yellowstone, according to Park Service statistics.

The Park Service counts vehicles that enter the park, so if a family is staying in West Yellowstone or Gardiner, Montana, they would be counted each time they enter the park, said Amy Bartlett, Yellowstone Public Affairs.

For example, a family of four taking a week-long vacation to Yellowstone National Park and staying at a lodge outside of the park would be counted as 28 visits (four individuals who enter the park on seven different days), the report explains.

Officials calculate the number of daily visitors by taking the number of vehicles and multiplying that by the average number of people per vehicle (it's typically somewhere around 2.5 people per vehicle).

“National park tourism is a significant driver in our national and local economy, returning over $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service,” said Teton Superintendent David Vela. “While we are primarily responsible for the preservation and visitor enjoyment of park resources, we also value the health and sustainability of our local economy and our partnerships with the communities that help serve travelers from across the country and around the world.”

More visitors to Yellowstone destinations like Fishing Bridge means more dollars for local economies, the Park Service says.

In 2015, Grand Teton National Park visitors spent an estimated $560.4 million in local communities, up from $532 million. The report says the 2015 spending supported 8,900 jobs -- a result of Grand Teton logging nearly 3.2 million visits.

“We are proud to share the story of this place with those visitors and introduce them to this part of the country,” Vela said.

In 2015, an estimated 245,173 visitors to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area spent an estimated $10.4 million in local communities. That was up from $9.3 million of estimated spending the previous year. The Park Service says visitors' spending in 2015 supported 162 jobs.

Bighorn Canyon definitely brings revenue to local communities like Lovell, said Bighorn Canyon Ranger Ben Goodlad. A lot of the canyon’s traffic are area residents, and a majority engage in boating-related recreation. But, folks shouldn’t overlook other activities such as the hiking and wild horse viewing.

According to the 2015 report, national park visitors' spending broke down like this:

• More than 31 percent for lodging
• More than 20 percent for food and beverages
• Nearly 12 percent for gas and oil
• More than 10 percent for admissions and fees
• Nearly 10 percent for souvenirs and other expenses

The full report is available at


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