Death Valley traffic boosts IWV economy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Death Valley traffic boosts IWV economyAnother record-breaking year for visitors in Death Valley National Park translated to an uptick in traffic for local hospitality, as well.

More than 1.7 million people visited the park last year — marking a consistent increase in traffic since 2016 and more than doubling the number of visitors since 2009.

“It’s great that more people are experiencing this spectacular place,” said Death Valley Superintendent Mike Reynolds.

But it’s also “fantastic news” for Ridgecrest, said local hotelier Dan Spurgeon.

“We have seen a sharp increase in our Death Valley travelers and it mirrors the park’s increase. For the local folks looking at this, there are a select number of hotels in Death Valley, and when they are full, those visitors back up to Ridgecrest.”

Spurgeon said that during the last week of December, SpringHill Inn and Suites was completely sold out, and an estimated 60 percent of those visitors were here to see Death Valley. SpringHill experienced the same scenario on President’s Day weekend.

“And that’s just one hotel.” Across the street, Bill Farris Jr., director of sales for Hampton Inn, reported that they experienced “a very similar demand.

Spurgeon noted that many of those travelers were families of four or more.

“These visitors, while great for local hotels, also benefit local restaurants, gas stations and retail outlets,” said Farris.

Thousands of room- nights bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) into the local hospitality industry. Market multipliers suggest that each dollar spent on accommodations comes with an additional two dollars spent on supporting industry — resulting in millions being poured into the closed economy, with tens of thousands going toward revenue the tax base that funds local services.

One drawback of the sharp increase in visitors, said Reynolds, is the difficulty in educating so many new visitors about how to avoid leaving damage to the landscape.

“Less than 10,000 people visited Death Valley in 1933, the year it was first protected as a national monument,” stated a Death Valley ranger.

With visitation trending upward for more than a decade, the park hit another milestone last year — more than 50 million have now visited the park.

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Story First Published: 2020-03-06