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National Parks Visitors Spent $1.2B in Alaska in 2022

Sep 27, 2023 | Government, News, Tourism

A stream at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Patricia Morales | Alaska Business

A report from the National Park Service (NPS) estimates the economic impact of visitors to Alaska in 2022. According to the agency, parks attracted 2,023,881 visitors who spent $1,160,600,000 in the state.

Average of $600 Per Visitor

The two Alaska parks with the largest amount of visitor spending are Denali National Park and Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Denali accounted for $475 million in spending and supported 6,640 jobs. Visitors to Glacier Bay accounted for $225 million in spending and supported 2,820 jobs.

“Every park in the state offers unique experiences, from learning about history up-close to diverse outdoor recreational opportunities. There’s something for everyone to see and enjoy,” says NPS Regional Director Sarah Creachbaum.

Altogether, visitors to nineteen national park areas in Alaska supported 16,450 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $1,785,800,000.

The estimate is based on a peer-reviewed analysis conducted by NPS economists. The report shows nationwide direct spending of $23.9 billion by nearly 312 million visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 378,400 jobs nationally with a cumulative economic benefit of $50.3 billion.

“The impact of tourism to national parks is undeniable: bringing jobs and revenue to communities in every state in the country and making national parks an essential driver to the national economy,” says NPS Director Chuck Sams.

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The lodging sector saw the greatest direct effects of visitor spending, with $9 billion in economic output nationally. The restaurants sector had the second greatest effects, with $4.6 billion in economic output nationally.

Although Glacier Bay had the most visitors of any national park in Alaska, most of those 546,000 tourists were on cruise ships and therefore spent less on lodging or food than the 428,000 who went to Denali. The 2022 total for Glacier Bay is still rebounding from the canceled cruise seasons in 2020 and 2021; economic impact peaked in 2019 at $246 million. Denali is much lower than its peak year, the $632 million from 2017; every year from 2013 to 2019 saw more visitor spending.

A scenic point along Parks Highway looking into Denali National Park and Preserve.

Patricia Morales | Alaska Business

Report authors produced an interactive tool on the NPS website that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies.

Alaska’s 2022 visitor spending of nearly $1.2 billion matches the economic impact in Arizona and Virginia. Tennessee, Utah, and North Carolina had more, with $1.4 billion, $1.7 billion, and $2.5 billion respectively. California saw the greatest impact, with $2.7 billion in spending by national parks visitors in 2022.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, was the biggest attraction, accounting for $2.1 billion by itself. The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway tallied $1.3 billion. California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Muir Woods, Alcatraz Island, and the Presidio of San Francisco, was the largest draw in that state, generating $1.1 billion in visitor spending.

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