A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 533,000 visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park in 2018 spent an estimated $45.1 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 599 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $61.6 million.
“Mammoth Cave welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Barclay Trimble. “We are delighted to share the world renowned history and geology of the park, but realize that it takes our concession providers and thousands of people from nearby communities to fully provide our visitors with food, lodging, and other services that help to complete their national park experience. We appreciate the partnership and support we have built with our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”
National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service. Tourism is also a major economic driver in Kentucky and in the local economy as well. Mammoth Cave National Park is located within three Kentucky counties: Edmonson, Hart, and Barren. The park regularly coordinates with the chamber and tourism boards of the counties as well as the communities of Brownsville, Horse Cave, Cave City, Park City, and Bowling Green to support and promote tourism throughout the region.
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $20.2 billion of direct spending by more than 318 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 329,000 jobs nationally; 268,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $40.1 billion.
Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending, about $6.8 billion in 2018. Food expenses are the second largest spending area and visitors spent $4 billion in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.
Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.
Report authors also produced an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm
To learn more about national parks in Kentucky and how the National Park Service works with Kentucky communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/kentucky.