Proposed developments at the east entrance of Zion National Park have the potential to boost already-strong tourism economic impacts in Kane and Washington counties over the next decade.

A new report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute indicates that the developments — a new visitor center, electric shuttle fleet, hiking trails and lodging — could result in 545 new jobs and $36.9 million in GDP growth per year from 2020 to 2030.

The Kane County impacts include supporting an average of 451 new jobs each year, $16.5 million in additional earnings, $29.6 million in new GDP, and $4.4 million in added state and local tax revenue per year. The impacts for Washington County are projected to be an average of 94 new jobs each year, $4.3 million in additional earnings, $7.3 million in new GDP, and $1.1 million in added state and local tax revenue annually.

“Zion National Park is a top driver of Utah’s travel and tourism economy,” said Jennifer Leaver, the Gardner Institute’s senior tourism analyst and lead author of the report. “One hundred years after its 1919 designation, Zion ranked as the fourth-most-visited of all 62 U.S. national parks.”

For the report, Gardner worked with park managers and stakeholders to project Zion visitation over a decade, considering recent visitation trends, the self-limiting effects of park crowding, and the possible impacts of proposed east park developments to help local decision-makers make informed decisions on the future of the park.

The report found that Zion is, by far, the state’s most popular national park, accounting for over 40 percent of Utah national park visitation and one-third of all Utah national park visitor spending. In 2019, its visitors spent a record $253.6 million in Kane and Washington counties, supporting 4,438 jobs, $140.5 million in earnings, $235.3 million in GDP, and $42.2 million in state and local tax revenue.

State officials have worried about the high visitation at Utah’s national parks and its effects on the quality of visitors’ experiences there. One plan to address that is the Red Emerald Plan, developed by the Utah Office of Tourism and aimed at improving the visitor and community experience as these new developments are completed.

“Public-private investment in infrastructure, including a new visitor center, electric shuttle system, over 40 miles of new trails, and new lodging and retail services, will help with Zion National Park overcrowding and create both good jobs and economic growth across Kane and Washington counties,” said Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain.

The full Gardner Institute report is at https://gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/ZionsReport-Feb2021.pdf.

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