Millions of visitors = millions of dollars

It doesn’t take an MBA to see that the local economy is driven largely by visitors to Acadia National Park.

A quick drive through downtown Bar Harbor, with its many restaurants, gift shops, galleries and hotels, would be enough for even the most skeptical to draw that conclusion. And that doesn’t take into account other businesses in the region, big and small, that profit from the park in one way or another.

Determining the dollars the park brings in isn’t an easy matter. Along with the direct impact, one must also take into consideration the “ripple effect” on businesses that might at first seem unrelated.

Despite the myriad of implications, the National Park Service does put a dollar sign on the economic contributions its units, which include parks, historic sites and national monuments, make locally and nationally. In April, the park service released its 2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report. Visitors to the park last year spent an estimated $247.9 million in “local gateway regions.”

A local gateway region is defined as all counties “within or intersecting a 60-mile radius” of a park unit. Obviously, Acadia’s economic impact as measured in the study goes far beyond Hancock County.

The study tracks eight spending categories: hotels and similar accommodations, camping fees, restaurant and bars, groceries and takeout meals, gasoline and oil, local transportation, admission charges and fees, and souvenirs and other expenses.

Although the study does not break down spending in each of these categories for Acadia or other individual park units, it does so for all park service properties. Spending at hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts account for 31.1 percent of the estimated $16.9 billion spent nationwide. Restaurant and bar spending is second at 20.2 percent, followed by 11.8 percent for gasoline and oil, 10.2 percent for admission and fees, 9.8 percent for souvenirs and other expenses, 7.4 percent for local transportation and 7 percent for groceries and takeout food. Camping fees account for 2.5 percent of the total.

The $247.9 million spent last year around Acadia compares with $221.1 million in 2014 and $191 million in 2013.

According to the study, visitor spending last year translated into 3,900 jobs that resulted in $102.1 million in labor income. In 2014, spending accounted for 2,900 jobs.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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