Big South tourism equals $12M economic benefit

Big South Fork
Big South Fork touches parts of Fentress and Pickett counties.

JAMESTOWN – Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area had a cumulative $12 million benefit to the Tennessee economy in 2015, according to a new National Park Service (NPS) report.

Visitors who patronized Big South Fork, a 125,000-acre area on the Cumberland Plateau, which touches parts of Fentress and Pickett counties, also spent $11.3 million last year, those same findings said, resulting in 155 jobs.

Obed Wild and Scenic River, in Cumberland County, was also included. Visitor there spent $2.8 million resulting in 36 jobs and a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $2.8 million.

“The national parks of Tennessee attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Stan Austin, southeast regional director, said in a release. “This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

Overall, the NPS report shows the 8.7 million visitors to national parks in Tennessee spent $608.5 million in 2015. That spending resulted in 9,441 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $840.4 million.

The peer-reviewed 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 $16.9 billion of direct spending by 307.2 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 295,000 jobs nationally; 252,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $32 billion.

According to the 2015 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.1 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.2 percent), gas and oil (11.8 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.8 percent).

At Big South Fork, the largest expenditures was for lodging (24 percent), gas (21.5) and restaurants (16.6 percent).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.


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