Spending at Utah's state parks up significantly

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Published Tuesday, July 5, 2022
by Merrilee Gasser

(The Center Square) - People who visited national parks in Utah spent an estimated $1.6 billion in surrounding regions during 2021, according to a new report by the National Park Service (NPS).

Those park visits contributed an estimated $2.5 billion in economic output in the Utah economy, according to data crafted in the 2021 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report. The report, conducted by department economists and peer reviewed, claims trip-related spending to park communities - defined by the agency as communities within 60 miles of a national park - was an estimated $20.5 billion nationwide.

The data demonstrated a significant jump in spending by park visitors in 2021 compared to 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic presented a deterrent to travel and recreation. Total visitor spending in 2020 was $878 million, the NPS said. The $1.6 billion spent in 2021 was the most spent in one year by park visitors during the past decade in Utah. The total visitor spending in pre-pandemic 2019 was $1.2 billion, according to the report.

"As we continue to welcome families to our parks and public lands across the country, the Interior Department is committed to making investments in our lands and waters that will support tens of thousands of jobs, safeguard the environment, and help ensure that national parks and public lands are ready to meet the challenges of climate change and increased visitation," said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

The largest portion of 2021's $1.6 billion park visitor spending in Utah went toward lodging for a total of $610 million, or 32.92 percent, data showed. The next biggest area of spending was restaurants, where park visitors spent a total of $273 million. Gas also took a significant chunk of $175 million, according to the NPS.

Recreation industries, retail, and transportation each received a little over 8 percent of total visitor spending in 2021. Park visitors also spent $108 million on groceries and $34.5 million on camping, the report said.

Across the nation, spending by park visitors in regions near national parks brought a $42.5 billion boost to the nation's economy, the Department of the Interior said.

The NPS started a new socioeconomic monitoring project this year to survey park visitors in 24 parks for the next decade.

"The new survey information will enable park managers to further improve the visitor experience and guide how to reach and engage with people who have yet to visit a national park," said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.

Sams said one park recently surveyed under this method revealed visitors usually underestimate the time they spend in national parks and how much money they spend during their trips.

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