Visitor spending continues increase

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A hiker crosses a backcountry suspension bridge in Glacier National Park. (Chris Peterson/Hungry Horse News)

Every year for the past seven years, visitor spending in the gateway communities of Glacier National Park has grown.

According to figures released last week by the Department of the Interior, visitors spent about $344 million in the gateway communities, which was up from $275 million the year before and double what they spent in 2012.

Visitor spending, according to the data by Interior, has risen every year for the past 6 years.

According to the Department of Interior, the spending supported a total of 5,230 jobs, $163 million in labor income, $269 million in value added, and $484 million in economic output in local gateway economies surrounding Glacier Park.

Glacier Park itself employs about 140 year-round staff and about 360 seasonal staff.

It’s estimated that visitor spending was up about 36 percent over the previous year.

Most of the jobs (29 percent) were in the hotel and motel industries, about 18 percent were in restaurants and about 30 percent were “secondary effects.”

While gas amounted to about $30 million in spending, the number of jobs it supported was small — just 56.

Last year Glacier visitation was down about 10 percent over 2017, but it was still historically high at about 2.65 million — the second most ever. In 2017, the park saw 3.3 million people.

In 2012, by comparison, it saw 2.162 million. The last time Glacier even saw a dip in visitation was in 2011, when it dropped from 2.2 million in 2010 down to 1.85 million. Visitors nationwide last year spent $20.2 billion in gateway communities that are within 60 miles of a park in the National Park System, according to the 2018 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report. That spending resulted in more than 268,000 jobs in gateway communities around the country.

At the national level, lodging expenses were the largest for spending at nearly $6.8 billion in 2018 and food expenses were second at $4 billion spent in restaurants and bars. Another $1.4 billion was spent at grocery and convenience stores.

For more information about spending around national parks in Montana, visit http://www.nps.gov/montana or for nationwide figures visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.

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