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Yellowstone Visitors Contribute $680.4M to Local Economy in 2016

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park contributed $680.4 million to the local economy in 2016, according to the NPS’ annual peer-reviewed report.

The 2016 NPS Visitor Spending Effects Report, written by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas (U.S. Geological Survey) and Lynne Koontz (National Park Service) published by the National Resource Stewardship and Science office Fort Collins, Colorado, is meant to “disseminate comprehensive information and analysis about natural resources and related topics concerning lands managed by the National Park Service.”

This report, which has been conducted over the past 25+ years, breaks down how much visitors spend when they visit, say, Yellowstone or Grand Teton, and ties their contribution to the number of jobs supported and total economic output.

You can read the 2016 NPS Visitor Spending Effects Report here.

Looking at the national park system as a whole, you can see a table of visitation and revenue statistics for the entire national park system, data courtesy of the Department of the Interior:

Year Visitation Visitor Spending Jobs Supported Local Jobs Total Output
2012 282,765,682 $14.7B 242,712 201,040 $26.8B
2013 273,630,895 $14.6B 237,599 197,343 $26.5B
2014 292,800,082 $15.7B 276,960 235,600 $29.7B
2015 307,247,252 $16.9B 295,339 252,030 $32B
2016 330,971,689 $18.4B 318,000 271,544 $34.9B

2016 saw a big year for the national park system, partly because it marked the National Park Service’s Centennial, partly due to increasing trends in visitation. Indeed, visitation between 2015 and 2016 to the national park system jumped 7.7 percent.

Looking at Yellowstone specifically, visitors to the Park in 2016 spent $524.3 million—most of it on hotels, followed closely by restaurants and retail. The full economic breakdown is below:

Year Visitor Spending Jobs Created Labor Income Value Added Economic Output
2012 $400.3M 5.6K $165M $272M $473M
2013 $381.8M 5.3K $156.7M $258.2M $451.1M
2014 $421M 6.7K $192.2M $309.4M $543.7M
2015 $493.6M 7.7K $224.8M $361.9M $638.6M
2016 $524.3M 8.2K $238.5M $383.9M $680.4M

“Yellowstone attracts people from around the country and the world who contribute significantly to the local economies in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk in a press release. “The economic benefits our neighbors enjoy are a direct result of preserving Yellowstone’s spectacular thermal features, abundant wildlife, and dramatic scenery. As we look to the future, preservation has to be the key value we consider as we address increasing visitation. Protecting the park also protects the regional tourism economy.”

If interested, you can see the report’s data for Yellowstone (and other national parks) online through the Visitor Spending Effects portal. Besides national park economies, the tool also breaks down statewide and national trends, including which states received the most windfall from national park system visitation. Wyoming, for instance, where the majority of Yellowstone National Park is located, ranked seventh in visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and economic output.

The report’s findings offer an intriguing contrast to another recent report evaluating overcrowding in parks like Yellowstone and Glacier. Taken together, these reports paint a fuller picture of Yellowstone’s current situation: a veritable economic engine that’s nonetheless facing stresses from the higher number of people streaming through its entrances.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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