-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
The National Park Service does a great job compiling and measuring spending on various levels, showing visitor spending, job creation, and other economic indicators. However - I am perceiving a problem with the spend patterns and value added outputs. Namely, looking at the hotel and restaurant categories. At a national level these account for approximately 50% of visitor spending. Spending has increased by approximately $4 billion dollars in the past four years alone, and attendance at parks continues to grow.
This seems like a good thing, but where is that money really going for the local economy? To the motels, and to the hotels. The 2017 estimate shows that 62.0% of visitor spending by visitor segment occurs at motels outside of the national park being visited. Which makes a degree of sense, considering the availability of camping and lodging within our park system. Supply does not meet demand, which in turn is filled elsewhere by proprietors of motels and hotels, thus allowing attendance to grow. For reference, NPS Lodge and NPS Camp Ground spending combine for 4.9% of total spending. NPS Lodge accounts for the highest daily spend in dollars, with motel outside of the park coming in second. These provide, generally, the most comfortable and luxurious accommodations, and pricing reflects that. Camping inside and outside of the park are similar in daily spend, however, given limited availability of camping inside of a national park the percentage of total spending outside of the park on camping is more than double, at 6.0%. This shows, again, that a limited supply is being filled elsewhere, thus diverting possible revenue from our national park system.
Much of this aligns with the fact that nonrecreational visition has increased while hours spent in a park have remained relatively consistent.
spending. The sums of the indirect and induced effects give the secondary effects of visitor spending; and the sums of the direct and secondary effects give the total economic effect of visitor spending in a local economy
Last for now, is looking at recent years budget vs. attendance:
2016 enacted budget: $3.38 billion
2016 recreation visits: 331 million
2016 nonrecreation visits: 172 million
2015 actual budget: $3.24 billion
2015 recreation visits: 307 million
2015 nonrecreation visits: 173 million
2014 actual budget: $3.08 billion
2014 recreation visits: 293 million
2014 nonrecreation visits: 169 million
A: Further investigate budget vs. visitation of the national park system.
B: Further investigate recreational vs nonrecreational visits, hours, and spending patterns.
C: Further investigate loading, or strain, on our national parks vs. where money is actually being spent.