visitors spend time on North Carolina’s coast, they also spend money.
Renting lodging, dining locally, recreating, camping and fishing are
among the services tourists pay for to experience the state’s coastline.
local spending creates jobs and economic opportunities directly in the
surrounding communities, and indirectly as employees spend their
income. National parks and their natural features on the state’s coast
are a tourist draw and a significant economic boost, according to a
report from the National Park Service released in May finds that
national parks in the state’s coastal counties have contributed more
than $215 million in visitor spending to the state in 2016, supporting
more than 3,400 local jobs.
coastal national parks listed include Cape Lookout National Seashore,
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site,
Wright Brothers National Memorial and Moore’s Creek National
portions of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor run through
southeast North Carolina, from Wilmington to Jacksonville, Florida, but
economic information on the area was not available in the report.
The tourist draw to the coast’s parks are well known.
Carolina’s coastal national parks, primarily the national seashores,
provide free access to miles of undeveloped beaches, as well as
fishing, recreation and boating opportunities. Visitors can also
experience the history of the coast, as the seashores are home to
historic dwellings and lighthouses open to the public in summer months.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the coastal parks provide views of birds and
marine life, as well as wild horses that have roamed the seashores for
hundreds of years.
natural beauty of the areas have economic payoffs locally as tourists
spend their money on housing, food and recreation, among other items.
peer-reviewed economic report is the work of economists Catherine
Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the
National Park Service. Numbers from the report highlight the link
between tourism and the benefit to local economies through tourism
expenditures such as housing, food, admissions and fees and souvenirs.
park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning
more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and
it’s a big factor in our local economy as well,” said acting Cape
Lookout Superintendent Mike Gauthier. “We appreciate the partnership
and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by
helping to sustain local communities.”
study defines visitor spending as an estimate of the amount of money
park visitors spend “within the gateway regions surrounding each NPS
site.” Only spending that takes place directly in the cities and towns
directly surrounding a park, where visitors typically stay and eat, are
calculated into visitor spending.
study also gives insight into what tourists spent their money on
locally. Nationally, visitor spending was concentrated most heavily on
lodging at about a third of the total. Restaurants were the second-most
popular expenditure at the sites, averaging about 27 percent. Other
significant local expenditures include gas, recreation industries and
National Park Service released an interactive tool the public can use
to view the economic contributions various national parks have on the
economy. The report found that nationally in 2016, visitors spent more
than $18 billion within 60 miles of a national park, creating a
cumulative effect upwards of $34 billion.
Carolina’s coast is dotted with both state and federal parks. Examples
of state parks include Jockey’s Ridge State Park and in the Outer Banks
and Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County. The report focuses
exclusively on the economic effects of federally run parks. The funding
and responsibility of managing the parks and making them available to
the public rests in the hands of the National Park Service, but, as the
report highlights, they provide jobs and tourism dollars to local
Cape Lookout National Seashore
report found that Cape Lookout National Seashore generated more than
$20 million in tourism spending in the local area in 2016.
Lookout’s seashore includes a lighthouse, historic dwellings and
Shackleford Banks, a popular barrier island that’s home to wild horses.
Visitors can reach different parts of the park by ferry or boat. The
park’s 458,000 visitors in 2016 supported more than 300 jobs through
Carteret County, home to Cape Lookout, in 2015, tourists spent about
$337 million, the state’s commerce department found. That same year,
visitors to Cape Lookout spent $17.7 million in the park’s gateway
areas, about 20 percent of the county’s total tourism expenditures.
The Outer Banks Group
Outer Banks Group in Dare County encompasses three national parks in
the Outer Banks area: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright
Brothers Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Of the
three, Cape Hatteras brings in the most money to the local economy.
Hatteras National Seashore is a 70-mile long stretch of islands,
including Ocracoke and Bodie Islands. In the park, visitors can also
find historic buildings, including a life-saving station and
lighthouses. The recent report found that 2.4 million visitors spent
more than $150 million in 2016 and supported about 2,400 jobs.
2015, visitor spending in Dare County supported more than 12,000 jobs,
according to the commerce department. That year, Cape Hatteras
supported about 10 percent of those opportunities.
Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills is a historic
compound with a monument dedicated to Wilbur and Orville Wright,
brothers who pioneered powered flights. Fort Raleigh in nearby Manteo
protects New World settlements from the 1500s and preserves the legacy
of Native Americans and African-Americans from Roanoke Island.
Together, these two sites brought in more than $43 million in visitor spending.
of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, David Hallac, said the large
difference of economic effects between Cape Hatteras and the other two
parks is due to the cape’s size and tourist draw.
he said, come from all over to spend multiple days fishing, camping,
exploring and experiencing the cape’s natural beauty.
want to be here because of those resources,” he said. To do so, they
spend money renting housing and dining locally over a longer period of
time. A study from the commerce department found that those who
overnight on trips in North Carolina tend to spend $500 more than day
2016, spending in all three sites in the Outer Banks Group supported
3,067 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local
economy of $247.6 million.
Moore’s Creek National Battlefield
battlefield marks the first significant victory for patriots during the
American Revolution in 1776, and last year’s visitors spend $5 million
in surrounding communities, supporting 81 jobs.
park is in Currie in Pender County. The county, which is also home to
popular beach towns such as Topsail Beach and Surf City, experienced
about $92 million in visitor spending in 2015.