Economic Impacts of Local Park Visitor Spending on Local Communities: A Case of Mississippi Parks

How to cite this study

Choi, J. and Jeon, H. 2021. Economic Impacts of Local Park Visitor Spending on Local Communities: A Case of Mississippi Parks. International Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management 5(2): 37-44.


This study analyzes the economic impacts of visitor expenditures at local parks operated by the Pat Harrison Waterway District (PHWD) in Mississippi which provide amenities like boat launches, fishing opportunities, camping, and trails. A survey and input-output model from IMPLAN is used to model expenditures. Visitors’ total local spending was estimated to be $5.1 million annually and generate $4.4 million of output, 68 jobs with $1.4 million of labor income, and $2.9 million of value added to the gross regional product.


This study is relevant to leaders interested in estimating the economic impact of tourists in regional or local parks. The information gained from surveys can help inform management and marketing strategies.


This study is located in the Pascagoula River Basin in Southeastern and East Central Mississippi. The PHWD includes parts of seven counties: Lauderdale, Newton, Clarke, Wayne, Jones, Stone, and Covington.

Trail Type

This study analyzes the economic impact generated by visitors in the PHWD parks in East Central Mississippi. There are eight regional parks operated by the PHWD: Archusa Creek, Big Creek, Dry Creek, Dunn’s Falls, Flint Creek, Maynor Creek, Okatibbee, and Turkey Creek Parks. The recreational opportunities in the PHWD parks include cabins, R.V. camping sites, water slides, boat launches, shelters, lodge halls, fishing access, and nature trails.


The purpose of this study was to estimate the economic impact of visitors’ spending at local parks and how this spending affects the surrounding communities. Both authors are professors at North Dakota State University.


  • Based on entrance data obtained from the PHWD office for 2018, 61,978 people annually visit the eight PHWD parks.
  • In the survey, there were 286 visitor groups to all eight parks, comprising a total of 1,980 visitors. More than 60% of the respondent groups were female while 38% were male. 83% of tourists did overnight stays while only 17% did day trips. 
  • On average, groups spent the following amount per trip in each category:
    • Recreational equipment and supplies: $322
    • Campgrounds: $166
    • Groceries: $122
    • Hotels/motels: $88
    • Transportation: $80
    • Food and beverage consumed at restaurants: $41
    • Admission: $22
    • All other spending: $16
    • Retail shopping: $14
    • Parking: $0.55
  • Since not all tourist spending stays in the destination, only 65% of the total estimated tourist spending remains as the final earnings in the local regions. The 65% measures the true economic impact of visitor spending, according to Daniel J Stynes in  Economic Impact of Tourism Handbook. Using these guidelines, visitors’ total local expenditures in the PHWD areas were estimated to be approximately $5.1 million per year.
  • PHWD parks were estimated to generate $2,971,434 annually in direct effects, $764,380 in indirect effects, and $733,899 in induced effects. Overall, the total economic impact was estimated to be $4,469,709.



A survey was developed to assess visitor’s spending in categories such as lodging, food and beverage, transportation, gas, recreational equipment, and retail purchases. The survey was distributed by park managers to one adult per vehicle during check-in as well as in different locations like beaches and picnic areas. Online surveys were also used, utilizing the 1,450 email addresses provided by PHWD of visitors who had reserved cabins. A total of 286 usable responses by tourists were used from the months of June and July 2018.  Out-of-town visitors or tourists were defined as those who reside outside the counties where the eight parks are located. Zip codes received from the survey were used to determine whether respondents were local residents or tourists. 

To measure only tourists’ expenditures, local residents’ expenditures were not included since their spending represents money already in the community. Visitor spending estimates were estimated by multiplying the mean spending per person by the estimated number of visitors. The number of tourists was obtained from the PHWD office, while spending was calculated using the survey data. Since not all tourist spending stays in the destination, only 65% of the total estimated tourist spending remained as the final earnings in the local regions. Direct, indirect, and induced effects were calculated using IMPLAN. 


Added to library on November 21, 2023