ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Maine’s only national park, which last year had its highest estimated annual visitation mark since 1995, contributed more than $300 million to the local economy last year, according to federal officials.
Acadia National Park officials released a statement Wednesday indicating that the estimated 2.81 million visits that the park had in 2015 resulted in $248 million in direct visitor spending in the communities on Mount Desert Island and in others nearby. That spending supported 3,878 jobs and, when including wages and other revenues, resulted in a cumulative contribution of $305 million to the area’s economy.
That 2015 estimate is about $34 million higher than the overall impact that the park is estimated to have had on the area economy two years ago.
Park officials have said that visitors to Acadia in 2014 spent $221.8 million, which supported 3,486 jobs in the surrounding area. When an additional $50 million in wages for those jobs is included, federal officials said, the park is estimated to have had an overall economic benefit in the Acadia region of $271 million for 2014.
“Acadia attracts visitors from across the country and around the world who come here to experience its unparalleled scenery, extraordinary recreational opportunities, and wonderful gateway communities,” Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in Wednesday’s statement. “Acadia is consistently one of America’s 10 most-visited national parks, and we’re looking forward to an even busier year as we celebrate Acadia’s centennial [anniversary].”
Acadia first received federal designation in 1916 as Sieur de Monts National Monument and became Lafayette National Park in 1919. The name was changed to Acadia in 1929.
The estimate for 2015 marks the second year in a row that visitor spending at Acadia is estimated to have increased.
In 2013, when the park was closed for 16 days in October because of the shutdown of the federal government, direct visitor spending decreased by about $8.5 million to $191.5 million from $200 million the prior year, Acadia officials have said.
Chris Fogg, who served as executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce for eight years and is now head of the Maine Tourism Association, said Wednesday that he thinks there is potential for the park’s visitor spending to continue to grow.
Overall, tourism is a $5.6 billion industry in Maine, he said, and has been growing steadily in value by an average of 4.5 percent per year. As the economy improves, not only do people take more vacations, he added, but they tend to spend more money when they do.
Acadia and Mount Desert Island face some space limitations on the number of visitors they can host at any one time, Fogg acknowledged, but Maine is becoming more of a year-round tourist destination rather than just drawing people to the coast in the summer, and skiers and snowmobilers to interior sections in the winter. The coastal towns of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit, he said, have had some success marketing themselves to people from out of state as winter weekend destinations.
“I think it can [continue to grow],” Fogg said of the national park’s economic impact on the state. “There’s definitely a market for winter tourism.”