Wildfires in California are causing some surrounding areas to feel their effects on tourism, including those visiting campgrounds, and the economic impact is being felt especially from the Ferguson Fire in the area surrounding Yosemite National Park.
- Wildfires burning in the U.S. West have scorched 5.6 million acres this year, including parts of Yosemite and other national forests.
- The Ferguson Fire in Yosemite has been particularly damaging to local tourism, and businesses are facing significant losses.
- The area around Yosemite has the seventh largest tourism economy connected to a U.S. national park.
- The park has 4.3 million visitors spending an estimated $452 million in 2017, according to the National Park Service.
For the past two weeks, a wildfire has forced much of Yosemite to close, with smoke blanketing its famous rock formations and clouding the summer travel season for one of the largest tourism economies tied to a U.S. park, reported BusinessInsider.com.
Steven Anker, 53, has seen business decrease by 80% at his Priest Station Café in nearby Groveland. “People come to Yosemite to see the outdoors. If the air quality is bad, they just won’t go,” Anker said.
“The gateway communities around Yosemite are our top concern,” Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive officer of the tourism group Visit California said in an email. “They are losing significant business during peak season.”
While Beteta had no official estimates for how much wildfires have hurt tourism, the concern is that potential travelers alarmed by the blazes are canceling trips. Nearly 20% of visitors to California go to a national park, making them important drivers of tourism, she said.
Yosemite is due to reopen on Tuesday, though with limited hours and services. Spokesman Scott Gediman said the fires have been contained away from the park, though smoke is still a problem at times.