National park tourism in Iowa creates $11.4 million in economic benefit

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that the 200,000 visitors to Iowa’s national parks in 2013 spent $11.4 million and supported 172 jobs in the state.

“The national parks of Iowa attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year from across the country and around the world,” said Patricia Trapp, acting director of NPS’s Midwest Region, which includes Iowa and 12 more states. “Whether it’s a day trip of a long family vacation, they come for a great experience — and they end up spending a little money along the way, too. This new report confirms that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service. This reality makes parks tourism an important factor in Iowa’s economy as well. It’s a result we all can support.”

Iowa’s national parks are Effigy Mounds National Monument and Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

The peer-reviewed NPS visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The national report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in “gateway” communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more about 237,000 jobs nationally — 197,000 them in park gateway communities — and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

The 2013 national economic benefit figures differ from the 2012 results, which were reported earlier this year. In 2012, Iowa’s national parks attracted 207,000 visitors who spent $11.5 million supporting 176 jobs in the state. The authors of the report said the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the national decline in park visitation. The economists also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

According to the national report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent), food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), and admissions and fees (10.3 percent). Souvenirs and other expenses accounted for the remaining 10 percent. Nationally, the largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

The 2013 Visitor Spending Effects Report can be found at http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/docs/NPSVSE2013_final_nrss.pdf. To learn more about economics within the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

To learn more about Iowa’s national parks and how the National Park Service works with communities in the state to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/iowa.

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