• SNP tourism brings in $120M

    Wednesday, May 09, 2018

    HARRISONBURG — Shenandoah National Park’s tourism reaped more than $120 million in economic benefi ts for neighboring communities last year, according to a recent report.

    In 2017, about 1.46 million visitors came to the park, spending $95.8 million in nearby communities, according to a park press release Friday.

    That money helped support 1,200 local jobs and provided a $126 million economic benefit to the surrounding area, according to the annual National Park Service report on visitor spending effects.


    Across the nation, more than 330 million visitors spent $18.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of the parks last year, according to a release Wednesday from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

    All told, nation park visitors contributed $35.8 billion to the nation’s economy in 2017, nearly $1 billion more than 2016, according to the release.

    Claire Comer, public information officer for Shenandoah National Park, said the park had more visitors in 2017 than 2016, with about 1.46 million and 1.44 million, respectively.

    However, those visitors spent more in 2016, about $400,000 more than the $95.8 million in 2017.

    In 2016, the National Park Service had a big marketing push to draw people to national parks in celebration of its centennial, Comer said, which may have accounted for the boom in visitors.

    “We’re pretty excited that we’ve maintained that visitorship pretty well,” she said, “that we didn’t see a big drop in the year after.”

    SNP visitors have spent more money over the last several years.

    In 2013, people spent $72.4 million, a total that increased to $80.4 million in 2014 and $87.9 million in 2015, according to the report.

    As a result, the output in the park’s “gateway economies,” which include Rockingham, Page, Warren, Rappahannock, Green, Albemarle, Augusta and Madison counties, increased from $89.9 million in 2013 to $126 million in 2016 and 2017, according to the report.


    Of the $126 million in economic input, about 26 percent, or $33.3 million, benefited area hotels; nearly 15 percent, or $18.6 million, benefited restaurants; and nearly 6 percent, or about $7.1 million, benefited the recreation industry, according to the report. Roughly $51.2 million had “secondary effects” in the surrounding communities.

    Jennifer Flynn, superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, said in the release that the park works with localities and is pleased to help support them. “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service,” she said in the release, “and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well.”

    Josh Gooden, Rockingham County economic development and tourism coordinator, said tourism is important to the area because visitors spend money without requiring local services.

    As a gateway community, he said, Rockingham County is working on ways to better link Shenandoah National Park to the area’s towns and local parks.

    “I think that there’s still a lot of that market that could still be captured even more for our community,” Gooden said.

    Brenda Black, Harrisonburg’s tourism manager, said the park is a “major attraction” in the region. The city benefits from travelers heading off the park through the Swift Run Gap exit southeast of Elkton, she said, as well as those traveling along Interstate 81 and U.S. 11 to get to the park.

    “Both inbound and outbound traffic is extremely valuable to us and important,” she said. “We definitely have a good working relationship with the park and support each other.”

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