Tourism benefits communities surrounding national park

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Communities surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park benefit from tourism in the form of job creation and money spent.

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 9,354,695 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734,086,600 in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

"We feel like we still had a great year. We had about 300-thousand fewer visitors, but overall we still were providing great services and attracting a lot of visitors to the area," said Dana Soehn, park spokesperson. "It's really a 2 way benefit for us, because all of those visitors that come to the park have those great experiences and opportunities."

In Gatlinburg, an arts and crafts community was built around the historic nature the park works to protect.

"So our arts and craft community developed right beside the tourist community," said Marci Claude from the City of Gatlinburg.

Tourism is Gatlinburg. The town offers lodging and attractions for the millions who visit the park.

The survey studied a 60 mile radius from the park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

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