NPS reports more than $20M spent locally by Cape Lookout visitors

The anchor of the Olive Thurlow sits on display at Cape Lookout National Seashore, where the National Park Service reports visitors spent more than $20 million in local communities in 2019. (Mike Shutak photo)

Editor's note: This article was updated at 7:40 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 2020, to correct a typo in the dateline.

HARKERS ISLAND — A new National Park Service report shows that 455,527 visitors to Cape Lookout National Seashore in 2019 spent $20,292,000 in communities near the park.

The NPS released the report Friday. According to the announcement, the reported spending supported 282 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $21,724,000.

NPS Cape Lookout Superintendent Jeff West said park service staff at Cape Lookout National Seashore is “very proud of the positive economic impacts the park has on the local community.”

“We will continue to look for ways we can support businesses and their employees,” Mr. West said.  

U.S. Geological Survey economist Catherine Thomas and NPS economist Lynne Koontz conducted the peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis. The report shows $21 billion in direct spending by more than 327 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

The spending supported 340,500 jobs nationally, and 278,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $41.7 billion. 

Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending, about $7.1 billion in 2019. The restaurant sector had the next greatest effects, with $4.2 billion in economic output. Motor vehicle fuel expenditures were $2.16 billion, with retail spending at $1.93 billion.

Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.

The report authors also produced an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added and output effects by sector for national, state and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage,

To learn more about national parks in North Carolina and how the NPS works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

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