Tourism to Sleeping Bear Dunes creates over $231 million in economic benefits

Report shows visitor spending supports 2,872 jobs in local economy

From staff reports

A new National Park Service report shows that 1,683,554 visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2016 spent $183 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 2,872 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $231 million.

“Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said superintendent Scott Tucker. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of Michigan and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

The peer‐reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz for the NPS. The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent), followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year 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 at

The report also includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in Michigan and how the NPS works with Michigan communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, visit