Analysis details monumental economic effects

Visitors to the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction spent more than $24.5 million in 2016, in turn contributing to a total economic affect that topped $30 million, according to the latest results of an annual analysis conducted by the National Park Service.

The economic effects of visits to national parks, monuments and other National Park Service sites was estimated at $722 million in Colorado and $34.9 billion nationwide.

“This report is a testament to the tangible economic benefits our parks bring to communities across the nation,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Economists with the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins conducted the analysis. They took into account the number of visitors to National Park Service sites and estimated the amount of money they spent in gateway regions within 60 miles of a site.

The economists determined the breakdown for park visitor spending at about 31 percent for lodging, 27 percent for food and beverages, 12 percent for gasoline and oil, 10 percent for admissions and fees and nearly 10 percent for souvenirs and other expenses.

Visitor spending supports businesses and jobs. Businesses and employees in turn purchase goods and services that result in indirect and induced effects of visitor spending that add to the cumulative economic contribution.

The Colorado National Monument attracted 391,076 recreational visits during 2016. Visitor spending totaled $24.5 million. That spending in turn supported 368 jobs.  The cumulative economic contribution from visitors to the monument was estimated to exceed $30.3 million.

In Colorado, a total of 7.5 million visits to national parks, monuments and other sites were recorded in 2016 and accounted for nearly $486 million in spending. That spending supported 7,400 jobs. The total contribution to the Colorado economy was estimated at $722 million.

Rocky Mountain National Park accounted for more than 4.5 million visitors, almost $300 million in visitor spending and nearly $456 million in overall economic contributions.

Nationwide, nearly 331 million visits to National Park Service sites were recorded in 2016, a record that corresponded with the centennial of the service.

Visitor spending totaled $18.4 billion and supported 318,000 jobs, more than 271,000 of those within 60 miles of National Park Service sites. The overall contribution to the U.S. economy was valued at $34.9 billion.

The lodging sector accounted for $5.7 billion in economic output and 56,000 jobs. Restaurants and bars added $3.7 billion in economic output and 71,000 jobs.

Michael Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service, said sites connect visitors with nature, help tell historic stories and more.

“They are also vital part of our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who fill the hotels and restaurants, hire the outfitters and rely on other local businesses that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”