By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Average park visits dropped 24 percent to 134,726 in October 2013 compared with a three-year October average of 177,431 between 2010-2012, according to a National Park Service report issued Monday.
Park visitor-related spending also dropped 24 percent to $10.6 million in October 2013 compared with the three-year October average of $14 million, according to the report.
“It was not a good thing,” Diane Schostak, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, said Tuesday.
“We were hit hard in October.
“We probably would have had a record year [for tourism] had it not been for that.”
The pinch was felt across all sectors of the tourism industry including food, lodging, gasoline sales and shopping.
“It just got really quiet really fast,” Schostak said.
The park shutdown affected Clallam County more than Jefferson County, she said, though entrepreneurs along Hood Canal in Jefferson County saw a noticeable slump in sales during the shutdown, too, she said.
Port Townsend probably was the least affected area in both counties.
“Their product and customer base is different enough, so they probably were not as severely impacted as the rest of the Peninsula, but they were definitely impacted,” Schostak said.
The visitor bureau is funded by lodging taxes collected in unincorporated Clallam County.
The organization is a member of the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission, which includes tourism marketing entities from Clallam, Jefferson, Mason and Grays Harbor counties.
Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said she, too, heard from entrepreneurs who were affected by the shutdown.
“We heard from a lot of people,” she said Tuesday.
“The shutdown really illustrated the importance of the national park to private businesses outside the park, particularly when we talk to lodging proprietors, restaurant owners and other businesses that directly serve visitors,” Maynes said.
A separate report also was issued Monday on the 2012 economic impact of national parks throughout the country, including Olympic National Park.
Overall in 2012, more than 2.8 million visitors to Olympic National Park spent $220 million in communities within 60 miles of the park, according to the report.
The study, conducted by U.S. Geological Survey researchers, concluded Olympic National Park’s 2012 visitors supported 2,708 jobs.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.