How has COVID-19 impacted local businesses like hotels and restaurants near National Parks?

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on travel plans for people all across the planet. With restrictions preventing travel both to and from the U.S., countless people have had to rethink their big summer vacations this year.

With fewer destinations at their disposal, it appears that many Americans are flocking some of the country’s most famous National Parks. According to NPR, Yellowstone National Park has seen more visitors over the past few weeks than during the same period last year.

But what about restaurants and hotels near National Parks?

Is business booming at these locations which typically rely on business from overseas travelers? Or are Americans still avoiding restaurants and hotels in favor of RVs and sack lunches?

Let’s find out.

Are restaurants and hotels near National Parks recovering more quickly than the rest of the country?

We analyzed transaction data at local restaurants and lodging places in counties surrounding the following National Parks: Acadia, Arches, Badlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountain, Joshua Tree, Mesa Verde, Olympic, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion.

We started by taking a combined view of those counties to see how restaurants and hotels there compared to the rest of the country.

How many hotels and restaurants near National Parks had to close down due to COVID-19?

Our previous research has shown that many local businesses have had to close their doors altogether due to the coronavirus pandemic. So we first wanted to see whether hotels and restaurants near National Parks were more or less likely to have to close their doors than the rest of the country.

Let’s start by looking at hotels.

In the earliest days of the pandemic (late March and early April), over 30% lodging places near National Parks had closed their doors. A much higher rate than those in the rest of the country.

By early June, however, that figure had dropped down to match the national trend.

Now let’s take a look at restaurants:

Unlike lodging places, which obviously rely much more heavily on travel, restaurants near National Parks weren’t any more or less likely to close down than those in the rest of the country.

So while hotels and motels near National Parks were initially more impacted, both they and restaurants are currently no more or less likely to be closed than those in the rest of the country.

Now let’s take a look at revenue at those open restaurants and lodging places.

Revenue at lodging places and restaurants near National Parks: 2020 vs 2019

One way to determine how much COVID-19 has impacted local businesses is by examining average revenue for a given period in 2020 and comparing it to the same period in 2019.

This will be particularly revealing for businesses near National Parks, as a return to “normal” during summer would represent a huge bounce-back for local businesses.

Let’s start, again, with lodging places:

In late March and early April, revenue fell to a stunning -90% decrease at lodging places near National Parks when compared to the same time in 2019.

But by mid-May, lodging places in and around National Parks began to outperform the national average.

By mid-July, revenue at hotels and other lodging places near National Parks had actually surpassed 2019’s figures. A stunning rebound suggesting that Americans are, indeed, flocking to National Parks in impressive numbers.

Now for a look at restaurants:

As with lodging places, restaurants near National Parks saw a steeper drop than the national average. They also experienced a more significant rebound. By the week of June 15th through the 21st, restaurant revenue had bounced all the way back to 2019’s levels.

We do see revenue quickly dip on the week of the 4th of July, which is more likely due to the 4th of July being particularly huge in 2019.

Which brings us to our final view of the “rebound” in revenue at hotels and restaurants near National parks. In addition to comparing 2020’s figures to 2019, we also wanted to simply track 2020’s revenue against itself.

How much has hotel and restaurant revenue rebounded compared to the overall 2020 average?

For this view we simply compared the average revenue each week of the year to the average weekly revenue figure for 2020 (so far). Here’s what that view showed us:

This view reveals just how dramatic the rebound in revenue has been for lodging places, especially later in the summer. By the week of July 27 through August 2, revenue at lodging places near National Parks was up 78% more than the 2020 average.

Weekly restaurant revenue hit its highpoint for the year during the week of Valentine’s Day before falling off a cliff in March. Restaurants near National Parks, however, nearly reached Valentine’s Day levels by mid-June.

Have hotels and restaurants been busier at some National Parks than others?

Finally, we’ll examine a handful of the National Parks in our analysis to see how they compare with each other. Feel free to scroll through the charts below, detailing the performance of the following National Parks (or click to skip to a particular park):

Crater Lake National Park

Lodging places near Crater Lake:

Restaurants near Crater Lake:

Glacier National Park

Lodging places near Glacier:

Restaurants near Glacier:

Grand Canyon National Park

Lodging places near the Grand Canyon:

Restaurants near the Grand Canyon:

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Lodging places near Great Smoky Mountain:

Restaurants near Great Smoky Mountain:

Joshua Tree National Park

Lodging places near Joshua Tree:

Restaurants near Joshua Tree:

Olympic National Park

Lodging Places near Olympic NP:

Restaurants near Olympic NP:

Yellowstone National Park

Lodging places near Yellowstone:

Restaurants near Yellowstone:

Yosemite National Park:

Lodging places near Yosemite:

Restaurants near Yosemite:

Zion National Park

Lodging places near Zion:

Restaurants near Zion:

View additional reports on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions of Americans and devastated local businesses across the country. Check out some of our other detailed reports to see exactly how much local businesses have been impacted, and stay tuned for more updates and reports in the future.


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