Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore visitors spent more than $63 million in nearby communities in 2010, according to a new National Park Service report. The spending helped support 658 jobs in the area.
“People value the National Lakeshore for its recreation opportunities,” Park Superintendent Constantine Dillon said. “Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is also an economic boon to Northwest Indiana. Our surveys indicate 60 percent of park visitors are coming from outside the state; that’s money being added to the regional economy.”
The park had 2,150,345 visitors in 2010, and 24,401 of those were overnight stays. The visitor spending analysis was conducted by Michigan State University professor Daniel Stynes for the National Park Service.
Most of the spending and jobs are related to lodging, food and beverage service (52 percent), followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).
John Jannsen, who has owned Jannsen’s Dunes Mart across from the lakeshore’s campground for 24 years, said park visitors are a big part of his business.
“We get a lot of business from people staying at the campground or going to the beach,” Jannsen said. “It’s definitely busier in the summer. We always hire two or three additional employees for the season.”
Jannsen said that business has been fairly consistent for the gas station and convenience story over the past few years.
“Probably the biggest impact would be the weather,” he said.
Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, said the report shows the state and national parks aren’t just regional attractions.
“It’s the No. 1 attraction in terms of recreational visitors in the state,” Weimer said. “The park has tracked visitors, and 60 percent come from outside of the state, while 20 percent come from outside Northwest Indiana. The farther people travel, the more money they’re going to spend.”
Dillon said there are still business opportunties close to the park.
“We invite those who may not have seen this region’s only national park as an invitation for business to look for opportunities,” Dillon said. “There are relatively few restaurants or visitor retail shops near the park, and visitors look for those services.”
Weimer said tourism officials would love to see more visitor-centric businesses along the U.S. 12/20 corridor. Meanwhile, officials want to bolster signage in the area to aid businesses.
Overall, the 394 national parks generated $12 billion in direct spending by 281 million visitors in 2010. Beyond the park’s borders, local visitor spending added $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs — an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009.