National Park Visitors Spent $90M Locally, Report Finds; Impact Increased 7% From 2013

BERLIN – Visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore accounted for more than $90 million in local spending during 2014.

According to a report released last week by the National Park Service (NPS), money spent on groceries, hotels and the like in 2014 amounted to $90 million in visitor spending associated with Assateague Island National Seashore. That was an increase over 2013, when park tourists spent $84 million in the area.

“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,” said Debbie Darden, superintendent of Assateague Island National Seashore.

She said the park was a way to introduce visitors to Delmarva and everything it had to offer.

“We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities,” she said.

According to the NPS report, the national seashore attracted more than 2.1 million visitors who spent $90 million in local communities in 2014. Most of that was spent on hotels ($25.3 million) and restaurants ($20 million). Park visitors spent nearly $13 million on groceries and just under $14 million on gas.

That spending supported 1,241 jobs in the area.

“The national seashore plays a critical role in our economy,” said Lisa Challenger, Worcester County’s director of tourism. “It is hugely popular and is a top attraction in the mid-Atlantic region and those visitors visit all of our surrounding communities.”

She added that Assateague, which has earned recognitions from the Travel Channel, Coastal Living Magazine and Frommer’s, attracted people from across the country.

“We’re really fortunate to have Assateague Island in our own backyard,” Challenger said.

Nationwide, 292.8 million visitors to national parks spent $15.7 billion and supported 277,000 jobs last year. Most — roughly 30 percent — of visitor spending was attributed to lodging while 20.3 percent of spending was tied to food and beverage purchases. Gas and oil generated 11.9 percent of spending.

The NPS report was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and NPS economist Lynne Koontz.