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Overall national park visitation has dropped by nearly 10 million people since 1998 to 278 million visitors, reports the University of Georgia. This is the first study to link national park’s downturn in visitation numbers to the slow economy.
According to the report, “The study suggests consumers cut out non-essential goods and services and visit local city or neighborhood parks rather than drive to national parks when faced with tighter budgets. In addition to gasoline prices, several indicators of recession-including a high unemployment rate, a decline in personal saving and a decrease in consumer confidence in the state of the economy-were all negatively related with national park visitation.”
Not all national parks have experienced decreased visitation. Yosemite and Yellowstone are well known with international tourists and have actually had increased visitations since 2000. Other parks such as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park had visitation numbers drop 7 percent over the past decade. Other influences such as raising gas prices may also have an influence on the decreased visitation.
The study also found that American tourists are still willing to spend money to visit amusement parks, which are more expensive than national parks. Parks offer greater value due to discounted entrance fees, but only internationally recognized parks are reaping the benefits.