By Linda Kor
A report unveiled recently by the National Park Service shows that visits to Petrified Forest National Park are on the rise, with 836,800 people visiting last year, up from 644,800 in 2013. The report notes that last year those visitors spent roughly $51.7 million in communities within 60 miles of the park. That money spent supported 719 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $59 million.
Communities that fall within that 60-mile radius of Petrified Forest are Winslow and Holbrook, with the nearest city on the east end of the park being Gallup, N.M., which is just over 70 miles from the park.
The findings for 2014 state that about 30 percent of park visitor spending went to lodging, followed by 20 percent to food and drink, 12 percent to gas and oil, with roughly 10 percent spent on admissions and other fees, souvenirs and other ancillary costs.
As the nearest community to the park, Holbrook would be the most likely recipient of much of those funds and the lodger’s tax collected by the city indicates that those figures are fairly accurate. According to the city, the average collection of lodger’s tax is approximately $165,000 annually. As a one percent tax, that would indicate approximately $16.5 million is spent on lodging, which is just under 30 percent of $51.7 million.
A survey conducted by the city showed that of the 14 hotels and motels in Holbrook, only the Wigwam Motel and Globetrotter Lodge fill to capacity during the summer months, the busiest time of year for visiting the park, with the rest averaging from 70 percent to 95 percent capacity. During the winter months those figures dropped dramatically to half capacity or less.
While there is no doubt that the Petrified Forest has a significant impact on the communities in the area, it is also worth noting that these communities lie along Interstate 40, a major thoroughfare that cuts through the entire country, carrying millions of travelers to their various destinations.
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber, and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz.