National and State Parks
South Carolina 2001 Tourism Report Series
of the demographics, economics and trends associated with activities in state
parks and national parks in
Economics of National and State Parks
In the year 2000 total visitation to the 84
million acres of the United States National Park Service system exceeded 430
million visits. Similarly, the 12.7
million acres of state parks in
Parks Visitation in South Carolina
TravelScope, the national travel survey coordinated by the U.S. Travel Data Center, collects data on tourists who travel for tourism, including visiting state and national parks. According to TravelScope, almost 1.5 million tourists visited the state and national park system in South Carolina. This number includes only visitors who traveled 50 miles or more one way or overnight (which eliminates most local or residential visitors). They stayed an average of 4 nights, spent an average of $404, and typically had 2-3 members in their travel party.
Also according to TravelScope, April and May tie as the most popular
visitation months to
The median age of the head of household of a
park visitor travel party in
National Demographics for Park Visitors
Nationally, July was the most popular month for visiting parks nationwide, followed by August, June, May and September. Most travelers are in the vicinity of the park purely for purposes of recreation and entertainment, or else to visit friends and relatives. In addition to the park activities, they also enjoy history and museum activities, shopping, and hunting/fishing/hiking.
Park visitation is well-distributed across
the country. The top destination states
for park tourism are
The median age of the head of household of a
park visitor party in the
State Park Visitation
Data for 2000 from the National Association
of State Park Directors (NASPD) shows that South Carolina State Parks received
a total of 9,563,510 visitors (both residents and tourists) in 2000, including
1,301,634 who stayed overnight and 8,261,876 who visited a state park on a day
According to the
State parks are more popular than national parks but not as popular as Forest Service areas. In a study of total visitation to state parks, national parks, Forest Service areas, national wildlife refuges and similar sites, state parks accounted for 29.47% of the total visitor days. USDA Forest Service areas received the most visitation at 33.82%, followed by Corps of Engineers sites with 15.03% and National Park Service areas with 11.75%.
According to the Spring 2001 South Carolina
State Survey, 56% of the residents interviewed had visited a state park in the
previous 12 months, including 60% of the males, 54% of the females, 51% of the
African-Americans, and 59% of the whites.
Age, education and income had noticeable effects on park
visitation. Sixty-five percent of
residents age 18-45 visited parks, dropping to 32% for the 65+ group. Interest is also highest among college
graduates at 64% and among higher income groups ($50,000 and more) at
68.5%. Interest is well-distributed
among urban (56%), suburban (57%) and rural residents (58%), and it ranges from
59% among Upstate residents, to 56.5% in the
The State Survey revealed that
The top ten reasons for visiting a
National Park Visitation
The National Park System attracted nearly 286 million recreation visits in 2000, nearly 144 million non-recreation visits, 3.4 million tent campers, 2.5 million RV campers, 1.9 million backpackers, and 4.6 million visitors who stayed in concessioner lodging. Overall, in 2000 the NPS administered 84 million acres (78 million in Federal land), comprising 382 sites. The NPS reports that its most popular visitation months are July, August and June, followed by May, September, October and April.
National park system units go by numerous designations, all with equal legal standing—national parks, national monuments, national preserves, national rivers, national battlefields, national trails, and so on.
The national parks of the Southeast are the
most visited in the country, thanks in part to the ongoing popularity of the
The National Park Service reports that
937,000 visitors traveled to National Park Service areas in
· Cowpens National Battlefield. 212,876 visitors in 2000, up 14%, increase of 65,000 visitors since 1990
· Ninety Six National Historic Site. 28,492 visitors in 2000, up 2%, declining attendance predicted
· Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. 24,055 visitors in 2000, down 25% from previous year, up from 11,000 in 1995, relatively new site.
Except for the
National and state park visitors want these priorities from their local hosts:
· Information, including campgrounds, parks, trails, guides to special formations, site histories, and up-to-date checklists with wildlife abundance information.
· Easy access via rights-of-way, roads, trails, boardwalks, boats and so on.
Suggestions for making communities more “park friendly” include:
· Provide detailed maps of park sites.
· Provide skilled and friendly hosts and guides for visitors.
· Post current information on the Internet.
· Provide a selection of activities, including nature-based, historic, cultural, and physical. Address the interests of various skill levels and age groups.
· Provide easy access to amenities—either onsite or nearby—including places where gas, coffee, box meals, sit-down meals, film, sunscreen, bug repellent, hats, waterproof clothing, footgear, camping equipment, souvenirs and lodging can be obtained and where equipment repairs can be made.
· Address the special needs of the RV crowd, including a list of places where RVs can be repaired.
· Host information sessions and field trips for local officials on the importance of the park system and nearby parks of interest.
Provide marketing tie-ins to
current news events. For instance, the
release of The Patriot movie was
a time to highlight Revolutionary War parks in
· “An 8-Year Analysis of State Park Fiscal Trends,” Daniel D. McLean and others for the State Park Information Resources Center, Indiana University, 1999, 7 pp.
· “State Parks: A Diverse System,” Research Report 00-1, Daniel D. McLean, State Park Information Resources Center, Indiana University, 2000, 8 pp.
· “Strategic Influence Scanning: A Decade of Trends in the State Parks,” Research Report 00-2, Daniel D. McLean and others, State Park Information Resources Center, Indiana University, 2000, 26 pp.
· Various reports, The National Association of State Park Directors, www.indiana.edu/~naspd/
· Various reports, U.S. National Park Service, www.nps.gov/
Park Service Statistical Abstract 2000,
· South Carolina State Survey Spring 2001, Institute of Public Affairs, 2001, 50 pp.
Sources and Methodology
In addition to the above sources, selected South Carolina and United
States visitation, demographic and travel characteristics were obtained from
profiles of visitors compiled by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation
and Tourism's Office of Tourism Marketing from TravelScope,
a national travel survey coordinated by the U.S. Travel Data Center. TravelScope
is based on a monthly sample of 20,000