National Parks aren’t just about beauty and stewardship—they’re also vital to our economy.
To that, the travel industry says: thank you, Mr. President.
The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year, oversees the preservation and maintenance of America’s natural parks, monuments and historic sites. Those places, from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty and every local treasure in between, aren’t just great for family vacations and camping trips—they do a world of good for our country’s health, economy and image abroad.
The National Park Service helps provide one of the best educations outside the classroom for America’s kids through its Every Kid in a Park program, of which U.S. Travel is a proud partner. Every Kid in a Park gives American fourth-graders and their family a yearlong pass to all national parks and monuments, so that they can discover the wildlife, history and natural beauty of U.S. national parks for free.
The economic benefits of our national parks are particularly noteworthy. In 2015, U.S. national parks and monuments received 307.2 million visitations. NPS reports that visitors last year spent $16.9 billion, largely in local “gateway” regions—the communities within 60 miles of a park. According to the latest available data, these visitor dollars created 295,000 jobs across the country, and generated $32 billion in economic output last year.
National parks and monuments are particularly attractive to international visitors coming to the U.S. from overseas, and are only becoming more popular. In 2015, 38.4 million overseas visitors traveled to the U.S.; of those, 35.4 percent (13.6 billion) visited national parks and monuments. In 2017, that number is expected to reach 14.6 billion. When one considers that each overseas visitor spends an average of $4,337 per U.S. trip, it behooves us to invest in our national parks and monuments, as one of the most significant overseas draws.
The budget blueprint submitted by the Trump administration last month proposed an 11.7 percent cut for the Department of the Interior. We thank President Trump for generously donating his salary to the National Park Service—but we also ask that he consider the economic value of our national parks and monuments in future budget decisions concerning public lands.