A new National Park Service (NPS) report says that 12,877,369 visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2013 spent $782,926,000 in communities near the park. The report says spending supported 11,283 jobs in adjacent communities.The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results, which reported visitors spent $902 million in local communities.Tourism officials across the Parkway region in North Carolina and Virginia say the rise in popularity of outdoor recreation helps. “Watauga County in western North Carolina’s High Country saw a rise in occupancy tax revenue over last year,” said Wright Tilley, Executive Director of Boone & Watauga County Tourism Development Authorities. “We know our visitors are looking for hiking experiences and the Parkway is the most popular starting point.”The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.According to the 2013 economic analysis, lodging (30.3 percent), followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent), and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent) made up the spending. The largest jobs categories were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.Learn more about the Parkway at www.nps.gov/blri.