According to a recent National Park Service report, tourism to the Grand Canyon National Park creates $454 million in economic benefit to Northern Arizona. The comprehensive study, 2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, showed that visitor spending supports 6,010 jobs in the local economy. The economic effects analysis measured how National Park Service (NPS) visitor spending ripples through Northern Arizona, generating business sales, supporting jobs and income. Local business people agree that trip-related spending by national park visitors generates a considerable amount of economic activity within the park gateway communities of Flagstaff, Williams and Tusayan.
“It feels like 90 percent of our business comes from Grand Canyon visitors. It’s hard to deny when you’re being asked for directions to the Grand Canyon every day. But realistically, it got to be around 60 percent when you consider the I-40 traffic and other travelers,” said John Peasley, administrative member of Grand Canyon Brewing Company. Peasley also operates Cruisers Restaurant and White Horse Trading gift shop in Williams where the employee count swells to 90 during peak tourist season.
The sales, income and employment resulting from direct purchases from Peasley’s and other local businesses represent the direct effects of visitor spending within the economy. Moreover, the study goes on to measure the indirect effects of the money coming into the local economy from the 4,421,352 Grand Canyon visitors reported in 2012.
Indirect Effects of Visitor Spending
Local businesses like Peasley’s must buy supplies from others, and those purchases create the additional indirect effects of visitor spending within the economy. One such supplier is Babbitt’s Wholesale, run by Babbitt family members who have been distributors of Pendleton blankets and accessories across the Southwest for more than 120 years. Babbitt’s Wholesale sells to gift shops and concessionaires at the South Rim, Tusayan and Cameron.
“Grand Canyon visitor spending undoubtedly has a large impact on Flagstaff in the spring, summer and fall,” said Jim Babbitt, co-owner of Babbitt’s Wholesale with his wife, Helene.
Jonathan Netzky of Local Alternative Inc. is also a Flagstaff-based supplier to Grand Canyon concessionaires including Xanterra. His company created the Tepa Burger, an all-natural, whole food meat alternative served at Bright Angel Lodge, the busiest food service of all national parks. “It’s our largest customer at this point in time, and with our other great customers like the hospital and Diablo Burger, that shows the strength of the pull they have at that location,” said Netzky, founder of the regionally focused wholesale food manufacturing business.
“The rule of thumb for the Grand Canyon is that visitors will stay here on the way there, or the way home. The odds that we get them to eat something from us [are] really good,” said Netzky, who also supplies food products to restaurants in Williams.
Induced Effects of Tourist Dollars
In addition to the direct and indirect effects, the report measured the induced effects of spending by employees of directly affected businesses like Peasley’s and suppliers like Babbitt’s Wholesale and Local Alternative Inc. Their employees use their income to purchase goods and services in Northern Arizona, generating further induced effects of visitor spending.
The report suggests that one person drinking a pint of beer at Bright Angel Lodge helps employ people in Williams. That gives Jeff Fowler, who with his wife, Christina, has four kids in Williams, a job as lead brewer, or Drew Carricato a job as the director of brewing operations. In all, there are 10 employees at Grand Canyon Brewing Company, which boasts $1.1 million in wholesale sales this year. Grand Canyon visitors have much to do with the success that has seen the brewery grow sales from $80,000 in 2008.
When the indirect and induced effects (secondary effects) of Grand Canyon visitor spending are added to the direct effects, the result is a whopping $454 million benefit to the Northern Arizona economy.
“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,” said Grand Canyon NPS Superintendent Dave Uberuaga in a press release.
Through the Healthy Parks Healthy People program, NPS has tasked Grand Canyon National Park to support local sustainability through collaboration with local healthcare providers, local and healthy food and intermodal transportation projects that connect parks to communities, which all create more opportunities within the local economy.
The report warns that because the NPS changed its economic modeling to improve accuracy and transparency, estimates from this year’s analysis are not directly comparable to previous analyses. FBN
275 S River Run Rd, Flagstaff
Grand Canyon Brewing Company
233 W Route 66, Williams
Local Alternative Inc.
White Horse Trading
229 Historic Route 66, Williams
Photo caption: John Peasley and Grand Canyon Brewing Company Beer’s awards include Silver 2011 North American Brewers Association, Silver 2012 Ameri-CAN for American Pilsner, and Gold 2013 American for Sunset Amber Ale.
Story and Photo by Stacey Wittig