Though down from 2015, visitors to military park left behind about $28 million in 2016

Published 10:22 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

According to a new National Park Service report, 508,915 visitors to Vicksburg National Military Park in 2016 spent about $28 million in communities near the park, supporting 488 local tourism-related jobs outside the park and producing an overall benefit to the local economy of $39.1 million.

Both numbers, however, were down from 2015, according to the National Park Service’s visitor spending effect website. According to the site, visitors spent $30.5 million, creating an economic impact of  $40 million in 2015.

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The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.

The report showed $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park which supported 318,000 jobs nationally. The overall benefit to the U.S. economy was $ 34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging, followed by food and beverages, gas and oil, admissions and fees, souvenirs and other expenses, local transportation and camping fees.

Despite the drop from 2015, local officials say the numbers point to the park’s importance to the economy of the community and the surrounding area.

The park, Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau director Bill Seratt said, “is the nucleus of what so much of our tourism product revolves around. We are very fortunate to have that facility here in Vicksburg.”

“It (the military park) is the center of the city of Vicksburg,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It’s the biggest tourist attraction, and it is probably the most toured area of the city.

“I always knew the best way to enhance our tourism in this market and to create another market in addition to the casinos is wrapping our arms around the military park.”

Presently, Flaggs said, visitors are spending about eight hours a day in Vicksburg.

“If we have it where we can bring Champion Hill and Port Gibson on, they would have to stay a day and a half in Vicksburg, and those (economic impact) numbers would probably triple,” he said.

“Vicksburg National Military Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent William Justice.

“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 the country and all that it offers.”

Justice said national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and is a big factor in local economies.

“We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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