Tourism to national parks of Southern West Virginia creates $64.1 million in economic benefits

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1,320,859 visitors to New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and Gauley River National Recreation Area in 2015 spent $56,266,400 in communities near the three parks. That spending supported 846 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economies of $64,108,000. The parks span four counties in southern West Virginia: Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers.
“The national parks of Southern West Virginia welcomed more than 1.3 million visitors from across the country and around the world last year,” said Superintendent Trish Kicklighter. “We are delighted to share the story of these places and the special experiences they can provide. Our parks are a great way to introduce visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our many neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $16.9 billion of direct spending by 307.2 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 295,000 jobs nationally; 252,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $32 billion.
According to the 2015 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.1 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.2 percent), gas and oil (11.8 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.8 percent).
New for 2016, the report authors produced an online interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage:
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.
To learn more about national parks in West Virginia and how the National Park Service works with West Virginia communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to


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