Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop Bicycle Pathway Estimated Economic Impact
A 262-mile cycle touring loop connecting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, with significant portions on non-motorized pathways, has the potential to generate important economic activity in the small communities through which it would pass. However, due to the challenges of estimating economic impact across a large area and areas close to national parks, the use and economic impact estimates are likely overstated.
This study highlights the challenge of estimating economic impact across a large geographic area and near major tourist destinations. The researchers likely significantly overestimate economic impact because they attribute all visitor spending to the pathway, while their survey found that the pathway was the primary reason for only 19 percent of visitation. Additionally, it is unclear how the researchers estimated total potential visitation to the pathway once it is completed. If they based this number on visitation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks through which the route runs, they significantly overestimated the effect of the pathway, as most national park visitors are unlikely to use it.
Additionally, the authors do not address the specific needs and spending patterns of cycle tourists, whom we assume are the main target for this loop. Other research has found that cycle tourists tend to have lower expenditures per day, but because they prefer longer trips their overall spending is higher than the average tourist.
The study is based in a five-county region outside the western edge of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The counties covered include Teton and Fremont Counties, Idaho; Teton and Park Counties, Wyoming; and Gallatin County, Montana.
This is a 262-mile loop, approximately 150 miles of which would be on a non-motorized pathway. At the time this study was conducted, roughly 134 miles were already in place.
The purpose of this study is to support grant applications and encourage community support for several projects aimed at connecting the tour route.
This study was paid for using a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to the East-Central Idaho Planning and Development Association, Inc. The City of Victor, Idaho provided matching funds for the grant.
- Visitors using the pathway spent an average of $287 per day. Lodging was the largest expenditure, averaging $155 per day.
- When the pathway is completed, the authors predict visitors would account for an estimated 59 percent of total annual pathway use.
- Sixty-eight percent of visitors surveyed stated that using the pathway was part of their original trip plan.
- Nineteen percent of visitors surveyed stated the pathway was the primary reason for visiting the area.
- Visitor spending generated 97 percent of economic impacts.
- The authors estimate that the pathway would be associated directly with 1,154 jobs in the five county region and $33.8 million in labor income.
The authors used a regional economic impact model called IMPLAN to estimate economic impacts from cyclists along the tour route. For use estimates, they relied on existing trail user count data along several sections both within and outside of Grand Teton National Park. They separated users into local and non-local users, which have different economic impact.
The authors collected data on expenditures via a survey of trail users, intercepted at three locations along the route. Different surveys were given to residents and non-residents, reflecting differences in how their expenditures affect the trail’s economic impact. They collected data from 206 trail users, 59 percent of whom were visitors. They defined visitors as anyone who traveled more than 25 minutes to reach the pathway.
Jenson, W., and K. Scoresby. 2015. Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop Pathway Bicycle Pathway Estimated Economic Impact. Rexburg, ID: Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center.