FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WVNS)– The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is going into its third summer since its designation as such.

The park’s designation brings with it a new crowd of tourists and adventurers. We spoke with local small businesses to see how this increase in food traffic is affecting the bottom line.

According to Statista, in 2021 U.S. National Parks tourism was a $6.1 billion industry. America’s newest National Park, now feeling the effects of this booming industry.

Dave Bieri, District Supervisor of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve said visitation numbers are increasing exponentially.

“Our Spring Break season we’re just kinda in right now is way busier than it even was last year,” Bieri explained. “Right here at Canyon Rim Visitor Center the month of March this year [2023] we had over 25,000 visitors come through our visitor center.”

Bieri said that is an increase from 18,000 in March of 2022. The crowds of people are changing with the change in title.

“The visitors used to be, the ones that stopped here in the visitors center, much more people traveling somewhere else, stopping along the way,” said Bieri. “We weren’t their destination. Now we’ve become more of their destination.”

Those tourists are spending days at local resorts and hotels, eating at local restaurants and browsing local shops. But, the influx of people is not yielding the overall results you may expect.

“I’m sure they’re seeing their numbers go up but for us at Wysteria’s Gifts in retail sales the foot traffic does not equate to additional sales,” said owner Denise Scalph.

Denise Scalph is the owner of Wysteria’s Gifts a local shop that supports West Virginia-based artists and sells gifts and accessories. She told us foot traffic in the store has doubled but sales have not grown much above their bottom line from loyal, local customers.

She explained the store was prepared with more inventory with the growing foot traffic but the turnover has not shown in the stores bottom line.

“I think the people that are coming in are interested in our beautiful gorgeous outdoors and oftentimes we will have people coming through but they’re waiting for a zipline or dinner and they’re browsing which we all do when we’re vacationing,” Scalph commented. “Just like we do when we’re tourists. We browse and look but we don’t always buy.”

Scalph said despite the unexpected initial outcome she still believes the National Park designation will benefit small businesses in southern West Virginia.

“It is good,” she affirmed. “It gives us certain notoriety to our area that most of us local folks are not used to.”

Scalph said the town is still adjusting to the increased demand for parking and other needs for tourists. She told us she is optimistic in city officials to make the necessary adjustments with the growing demand.