They might contribute to weekend traffic gridlock, but National Park tourists in the San Francisco Bay Area spend millions of dollars annually and their visits create thousands of jobs, according to a report released last week by the National Park Service.
Non-local National Park visitors in California spent nearly $1.2 billion in 2011, more than any other state or the District of Columbia. National Parks tourism was credited with creating almost 18,000 jobs statewide and $690 million in labor income, according to the report.
More than 14 million people visited the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 2011, the most recent year data is available. Nearly 400,000 people made a trip to the Pinnacles, outside of Hollister, that year. The number of visitors there is expected to rise significantly now that the Pinnacles has been upgraded from National Monument to National Park.
GGNRA, which spans 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline in San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco and Marin counties, from the Marin Headlands to Presidio of San Francisco to Sweeney Ridge in Pacifica. It accounted for nearly 14.6 million of those visitors. It generated an estimated $290 million in total spending in 2011, according to the report. Pinnacles visitors spent an estimated $8.4 million total spending, combined of local and non-local visitors.
There were more than 1,900 jobs created around providing services to GGNRA and Pinnacles visitors, the report said.
"The National Park Service is proud to have been entrusted with the care of America’s most treasured places and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state, and national economy," NPS Regional Director Chris Lehnertz said, in a written statement.National Park Economic Impact in the Bay Area, 2011 Park Annual Visits Spending: All Visitors Spending: Non-Local Visitors Jobs Labor Income Fort Point National Historical Site 1,338,508 $92.1 million $85.6 million 1,145 $45 million Golden Gate National Recreation Area 14,567,487 $290 million $120 million 1,566 $62 million Muir Woods National Monument 897,131 $61.7 million $57.4 million 767 $52.4 million Pinnacles National Monument 393,219 $8.4 million $6.9 million 357 $5.7 million Point Reyes National Seashore 2,129,116 $93.3 million $84.9 million 1,105 $43.5 million San Francisco Maritime Historical Park 4,224,897 $95.5 million $70.7 million 855 $33.8 million
Spending directly associated with National Parks happens within a 60-mile radius around each park, known as the local region.
Visitor spending figures were calculated using the Money Generation Model version 2, which uses number of park visits and spending averages from park visitor surveys, as well as local and national economic multipliers. Dollars spent, however, does not include the cost of park fees.
Surrounding GGNRA, locals bucked the regional trend and actually out-spent visitors. Tourists shelled out $120 million but those who lived within 60 miles of the recreation area accounted for 59 percent of visitor spending. Out-of-area visitors were the big spenders at Pinnacles, forking over 82 percent of the cash.
Here's how much visitors pay, on average, for various types of National Park visits. The figures are system-wide (national).
- A party of local residents on a day trip to a park: $49.86.
- Non-locals on a day trip:t $75.02.
- A group of back-country campers: $59.91 per night.
- A party of visitors staying in a park lodge: $330.70 per night.
- Campers staying inside the park: $86.72 per night.
- Campers staying outside the park: $119.86 per night.
National Park visitors' two biggest costs are food and lodging, accounting for nearly half of what they spend during the trip. There were 60,927 overnight stays in GGNRA in 2011, according to the study. The number of overnight stays at Pinnacles was not included in the study.
"We attract visitors from all across the U.S. and around the world who come here to experience these parks and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our neighboring communities," Lehnertz said.