HARKERS ISLAND — A pandemic couldn’t stop people from coming to enjoy Cape Lookout National Seashore last year, a recent report from the National Park Service said.
The NPS issued a report Wednesday, reporting 488,332 visitors to Cape Lookout in 2020 spent $21,905,000 in communities near the park. That spending supported 304 jobs in the area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $23,491,000, the NPS claims.
Cape Lookout Superintendent Jeff West said park service staff was able to keep most of the park open and functioning throughout “the worst of the pandemic last year.”
“Cape Lookout offered a refuge and a place for recharging for many visitors and continued to support our local economy when it was needed the most,” Mr. West said.
The report also shows not only did visitors keep coming to Cape Lookout through the pandemic, visitation actually grew. Chief of interpretation and education B.G. Horvat said in an email Wednesday to the News-Times Cape Lookout had 455,527 visitors in 2019, who spent about $20,292,000 in local communities.
“That spending supported 282 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $21,724,000,” he said.
This means Cape Lookout saw 32,805 more visitors in 2020 than the prior year, and they spent an additional $1,613,000 in the area, supporting 22 more jobs and providing an additional $1,767,000 to the local economy.
Mr. Horvat said it was Cape Lookout’s ability to remain open and allow visitors “to recreate and do things with their families, or in a safe, open-air environment on their own” that led to the growth.
“As the numbers suggest, Cape Lookout was a popular destination for the community,” he said, “and perhaps even for some visitors from elsewhere.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists with the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report shows $14.5 billion of direct spending by more than 237 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.
This spending supported 234,000 jobs nationally, and 194,400 of those jobs are found in so-called gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $28.6 billion.
Looking at the economics of visitor spending nationally, the lodging sector had the highest direct effects, with $5 billion in economic output, according to the report. The restaurants sector had the second greatest effects, with $3 billion in economic output. Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 43,100 jobs and more than 45,900 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 18,100 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 14,300 jobs.
Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this article.