Yosemite visitors pour $520 million into area

Visitors to Yosemite National Park spent $520 million in surrounding communities last year.
Visitors to Yosemite National Park spent $520 million in surrounding communities last year. Sierra Star File Photo

In 2016, five million visitors spent an estimated $520 million in surrounding gateway communities, including Oakhurst and Mariposa, while visiting Yosemite National Park, according to a new National Park Service report.

These expenditures supported a total of nearly 8,000 jobs with $239 million in payroll to workers in towns adjacent to the park on highways 41, 140 and 120.

“Yosemite National Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Yosemite Acting Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $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 neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

Jenkins said Yosemite is a proud partner of the park’s gateway communities and the many small businesses that provide services for visitors traveling to Yosemite throughout the year.

The economic impact of Yosemite visitors is certainly no secret to businesses in Eastern Madera County, or to tourism officials.

“Yosemite is what drives most of the visitor traffic to Madera County and the Mountain Area, not counting Bass Lake which is its own destination not relying on Yosemite,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite Madera County. “2016 was the largest year for tourism this county has ever seen and we contribute the huge numbers to the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service which gained worldwide attention.”

Spending near parks statewide hits $2 billion

The report shows that nearly 42 million visitors to national parks in California in 2016 spent more than $2 billion in the state and supported 289,000 jobs.

“The national parks of California attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Laura Joss, regional director for National Park Service’s Pacific West Region. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.”

There are 28 national parks in California, including Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Death Valley, and state parks such as Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. California is also home to the nation’s most visited national park, the Bay Area’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

$18.4 billion spent nationally around parks

The 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 nationally that there is $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

According to the report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2%) followed by food and beverages (27.2%), gas and oil (11.7%), admissions and fees (10.2%), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7%), local transportation (7.4%), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors have produced an interactive tool to explore current year visitor spending, jobs,and labor income. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

To learn more about national parks in California and how the National Park Service works with California communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, visit www.nps.gov/california. To learn more about the National Park Service, go to www.nps.gov.