Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provides $57 million in economic benefits for northern Wisconsin

Bayfield storefront with reflection

August 22, 2023

When you visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, your spending has a positive economic ripple effect in nearby northern Wisconsin communities. A new report says that in 2022, more than a quarter-million park visitors generated nearly $57 million in economic benefits for the region.
Nationallly, park visits grew 5% in 2022, to 312 million recreation visits. Researchers say visitation has now returned to pre-pandemic levels. Those visitors spent a record high $50.3 billion, benefitting the nation’s economy and supporting 378,400 jobs. Lodging and restaurants saw the greatest economic benefits.
Bayfield businesses with a cruise ship just off harbor
Locally, 255,000 Apostle Island National Lakeshore visitors spent an estimated $45.2 million in gateway communities within 60 miles of the park. Their spending supported a total of 623 jobs, $17.5 million in labor income, $30.0 million in value added, and $56.7 million in economic output.

“This report demonstrates that the benefits of protecting and enhancing our National Lakeshore extend far beyond the park borders,” says Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director of Friends of the Apostle islands National Lakeshore. “We appreciate the local business community members who support our efforts through their business memberships. When they help us help the park, they’re actually helping themselves too.”

As was the case nationally, hotels and restaurants in communities near the Apostle Islands saw the biggest benefits, with more than $10 million for each sector. The transportation sector saw the next-largest benefit of more than $5 million, followed by recreation industries and retail, at $2.6 million each. Secondary ecomomic benefits totalled more than $20 million in 2022.

Click to enlarge the pie charts below to see the breakdowns for visitor spending, value added, labor income and jobs.

The report says total economic impact of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2022 declined by $7.1 million dollars compared to 2021. Some of that difference may be the result of improved measurement techniques. The National Park Service says, “the latest report is informed by new socioeconomic monitoring survey data, which greatly increases the accuracy of spending estimates for each park and helps the National Park Service learn more about park visitors. This advanced monitoring also delivers a more accurate estimate of the economic contributions of parks to communities.”

Total visitor spending yearly comparison graph
Wisconsin’s statewide numbers include the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, as well as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. All told, the report says 672,000 park visitors spent an estimated $65.8 million in 2022. These expenditures supported a total of 952 jobs, $31.7 million in labor income, $51.7 million in value added, and $94.7 million in economic output in the Wisconsin economy.
“The impact of tourism to national parks is undeniable: bringing jobs and revenue to communities in every state in the country and making national parks an essential driver to the national economy.”
Chuck Sams

Director, National Park Service

You can read the new economic report here. You can also explore the Visitor Spending Effects data for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and other national parks using interactive tools from the National Park Service.

You may also like…