National parks tourism brought over $1.5B in benefits to DC area

Fifty-four million people visited the national parks around Washington in 2018 and they spent nearly $1.1 billion doing so, according to a new National Park Service report. As a result, 14,984 jobs were created and the region saw a $1.58 billion economic boon.

According to the report, park tourism returns $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service — a pretty good turnaround.

“National parks in the greater Washington area draw millions of visitors from across the country and around the world each year,” Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, acting NPS National Capital Regional Director, said in a news release.

“Whether they’re hiking at Rock Creek Park, retracing history at Antietam National Battlefield or exploring Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, visitors come to the area’s national parks for unique adventures and make important contributions to local economies along the way.”

The area included in the study stretches from Washington County in Maryland to Manassas, Virginia, and included parks of all sizes — even tiny ones.

But the bulk of the $1.1 billion spent was in the District: $768 million.

Find D.C.-area parks at the NPS website.

Economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service conducted the peer-reviewed analysis.

All across the U.S., 318 million park visitors spent a whopping $20.2 billion, resulting in an economic boost of $40.1 billion.

Parkgoers also spent $6.8 billion on lodging, $4 billion in restaurants and bars and $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.

The report and an interactive tool is available at the NPS Social Science Program website.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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