Alaska gains $1.98 B from national park visitors

A sow keeps an eye on her two cubs while they eat in interior Alaska in late June, 2017. (NPS Photo/Emily Mesner)

A new report from the National Park Service says 2,920,250 visitors to Alaska’s national parks spent $1.36 billion in the state in 2018, spending that resulted in 17,760 jobs, with a cumulative benefit to the state economy of over $1.98 billion.

People from across the globe come here to experience these parks, which are considered world treasures, said NPS Regional Director Bert Frost.

“Whether they are local residents who bring their families to Denali for the weekend, or first-time visitors from abroad who come to see Katmai’s famous bears, all of Alaska’s parks provide superlative experiences to visitors, who also happen to spend some money along the way,” Frost said. “This year’s report shows that tourism to national parks continues to be an important part of the national economy, and a significant economic engine for Alaska.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis by Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione, economists with the U.S Geological Survey, and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service, showed $20.2 billion of direct spending by over 318 million park visitors within 60 miles of a national park. That spending supported 329,000 jobs annually, 268,000 of them in gateway communities. The cumulative national benefit was $40.1 billion, they said.

Lodging expenses alone accounted for about $6.8 billion in 2018. Visitors spent $4 billion in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.

Alaska’s national parks include Sitka National Historical Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Katmai National Park and Preserve, and Aniakchak National Monument.