Visitors to DC-area national parks spent $1.2B in 2016

WASHINGTON — More than 61 million tourists visited national parks in the D.C. area last year, spending more than $1.2 billion on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and other expenses, according to a new report from the National Park Service.

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The number of visitors to D.C. landmarks was up 5 million from the 56 million tourists recorded in 2015.

Spending by tourists at the nearly three dozen D.C.-area national parks supported more than 18,500 jobs last year and contributed a cumulative $1.75 billion to the region’s economy, the report found.

The report tallies up 33 national parks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including the major monuments and memorials on the National Mall as well as Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia and the Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland, among many others.

Tourists to national parks in the D.C. region spent the most on lodging, followed by food and beverages, gas, and admission fees, according to the report.

In D.C., alone, spending by tourists to national parks is up 35 percent over the past five years — hitting $810 million last year.

However, at least one D.C. national landmark recorded a marked drop in visitors last year.

The Washington Monument, which had been plagued with elevator glitches before closing indefinitely in August for long-term repairs, recorded nearly half as many visitors as the year before. All told, about 252,700 people visited the monument in 2016, according to the report. That’s down from the 493,550 visitors in 2015. The monument reopened in 2014 after being closed for three years for repairs to damage sustained in the 2011 East Coast earthquake.

Nationwide, the report found tourism at national parks to be a “significant driver” of the overall U.S. economy, with 331 million visitors to national parks and a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $34.9 billion.

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