Mississippi’s eight national parks attracted 6.4 million visitors last year. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, visitor spending at these national parks helped boost local economies by almost $200 million.
Visitors are welcomed to the Ship Island Excursions ferry at the Gulfport harbor. Among them is Randy Murrell, from Alexandria, Louisiana, in town for two days with family. How important was it that a national park was here?
"Important for me," he says. "I love the outdoors. I just love being outside."
Kevin Buckel is Ship Island Excursion’s director of sales and marketing. He says they estimate 7 out of 10 of their approximately 60,000 annual visitors are from out of state. That means a boost for other local businesses.
"I think we make a huge impact," he says. "We think most of our guests do stay overnight, which impacts the local resturants and, of course, buys hotel room nights."
Ship Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The park service estimates just over 870,000 people visited the seashore in Mississippi last year. Dan Brown is superintendent of the park. He says studies have estimated average visitor spending on lodging, food, gas, admission and other expenses.
"Then they multiply that dollar-per-expenditure amount by the number of visitors that you have, and based on our visitation in the Mississippi district of the National Seashore last year, in 2015, that resulted in approximately $32 million spent by visitors to Gulf Islands National Seashore in communities near the National Seashore in Mississippi," he says.
Mississippi’s other national parks include the Natchez Trace Parkway, and national military parks in Vicksburg and Shiloh.