Last year, the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park generated its biggest economic impact in at least nine years, bringing an estimated $165 million to the region through visitor spending and job wages, reports the National. Park Service.
According to an analysis by economists from the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey published this week, about 1.3 million visitors in 2021 spent $104 million in areas near park sites, which in turn supported 1,640 jobs.
This estimate of visitor spending is up 23% from 2020, with accommodation getting the most money, followed by restaurants and retail. The number of reported jobs marked a 24% increase compared to 2020.
The estimated total economic output of $165 million is the highest since 2012, the first year for which estimates are readily available, when the park service estimated the financial impact at $41.9 million.
Southside Park includes the Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada missions. It does not include the Alamo, which is operated by the Alamo Trust.
Parts of the four missions, all located along the San Antonio River, belong to the Archdiocese of San Antonio and are still run as parishes.
It was established as a national park in 1983. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, designated the park and the Alamo as a World Heritage Site in 2015 – the only in Texas.
Former city councilor Rebecca Viagran, who was influential in the UNESCO designation, said an expected increase in tourism and local jobs was a big part of the conversation at the time. “It’s exactly what we were hoping for,” she said.
She said the region will continue to receive public investments, such as the $1.2 billion bond passed in May. “People know that more and more visitors are coming,” she said.
Visit San Antonio, the city’s tourism board, has for years marketed the heritage site as a destination and a central part of San Antonio’s history. The organization’s president and CEO, Marc Anderson, called the park “a living monument to the birth of San Antonio” in a prepared statement.
“San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is one of our city’s greatest cultural, historical and tourism assets,” he said, adding that its tourism impact is felt throughout the South Side and the city as a whole.
Across Texas, national park visitors spent about $371 million last year.
While the San Antonio missions are enjoying a bigger economic impact than the years before the coronavirus pandemic, other national parks haven’t seen the same recovery. Nationwide, national parks generated $20.5 billion in 2021, still half a billion dollars less than 2019 figures.
The number of visitors reflects this trend. In 2019, 327 million visitors visited national parks, but in 2021 that number was only 297 million. The San Antonio missions, on the other hand, welcomed more visitors in 2021 than in the years before the pandemic.