Tourism at Saguaro National Park generated more than $74 million in economic benefits to the Tucson area in 2016, says a report by the National Park Service.

The report found that the park, with units east and west of the city, attracted more than 820,000 visitors who spent a total of $52.8 million in communities near the park last year. The spending supported 762 jobs in the area, bringing the reported cumulative benefit to $74.2 million.

That’s a 12 percent increase over the reported economic benefit for 2015, said Saguaro Park spokeswoman Andy Fisher. She said a 9 percent increase in park visitation from 2015 to 2016 was one factor in the improved economic benefit.

Among jobs partially supported by park tourism are some in the hospitality and restaurant industries and professional guiding services, Fisher said.

AN ECONOMIC DRIVER

“National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well,” said Leah McGinnis, superintendent of Saguaro Park. “We are pleased to be a part of such a vibrant community and are glad to be able to give back to the Tucson economy.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.

Nationally, the report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. The spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally, and the cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.

According to the report, most park visitor spending in 2016 was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5 percent).

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz