Mount Rainier National Park is widely acknowledged as a powerful tourism attraction. The latest numbers that back up the reputation tell more about the “significant contributions” to local and regional ecnomies.
A new National Park Service report for 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, reveals that just over 1 million visitors were recorded at the park that year. They spent $33 million in communities surrounding the park. And all that spending helped make more than 1,000 jobs possible – approximately 450 of them locally, not counting the 100 to 110 permanent and 180 to 200 seasonal employees at the park and another 450 to 500 people working in or near the park for commercial concessions companies.
The economic information is part of an analysis of national park visitors nationwide by Michigan State University in 2011. The university’s report, which was commissioned by the Park Service, showed $13 billion of direct spending by 279 million visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. The spending had a $30 billion impact on the U.S. economy and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide, officials said.
Mount Rainier’s impact economically extends beyond its nearby communities. Statewide, the mountain contributes to tourism’s ranking as the fourth-largest export industry in Washington. It also accounts for 11 percent of the total spending on travel within Pierce County, according to state tourism officials.
Visit Rainier, a consortium of businesses and organizations that promotes mountain tourism, has called for stronger state-level support of the visitor industry through Washington Tourism Alliance, a not-for-profit marketing organization. State budget cuts led to the closure two years ago of the state tourism office and the loss of funding to promote the state and its destinations for out-of-state and international visitors.
Tourism is an economic generator for the state and communities, said Mary Kay Nelson, executive director of Visit Rainier and a member of the tourism alliance.
The same emphasis comes from officials at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a centerpiece of visitors’ trips, but it isn’t the only place where they spend their time and money, noted Tracy Swartout, the park’s deputy superintendent.
“The mountain attracts visitors from across the U.S. and around the world,” Swartout said. “While their destination may be the park, they also spend time and money in our neighboring communities.”
She said the Park Service “is proud” to be the draw for visitors who “generate significant contributions to the local, state and national economy.”
According to the Park Service report that was released March 22, most visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food and beverage service (63 percent). Other sectors of employment benefitting from park tourism are recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other types of retail businesses (11 percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent), and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent).
The report, which includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. is available online at www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM.