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Visitation to Arizona’s Grand Canyon plummeted in 2020 amid COVID-19

(Photo by Michael Quinn/National Park Service)

PHOENIX — Visitation to the Grand Canyon tumbled by millions last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic that caused tourism to grind to a screeching halt.

Only 2.89 million people visited Arizona’s most popular landmark in 2020 after nearly 6 million came in 2019, according to a report released by the National Park Service.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon generated $1.1 billion in output during 2019, part of a record $41.7 billion economic output at national parks across the country prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The decrease in visitors to Grand Canyon National Park resulted in a drop from No. 2 on the top 10 national parks by recreation visits – a spot it had held for 30 years – to No. 6.

It also marked the most significant decrease among any of the top 10 national parks.

The next highest was Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado that saw a drop of 1.36 million.

The Grand Canyon National Park closed on April 1, 2020 due to COVID-19 and remained shuttered for most of May before opening on a limited basis around the Memorial Day holiday.

Of the 423 national parks across the country, 66 stayed completely closed for two months or more, according to the release.

The closures resulted in a nationwide decrease of more than 90 million visits from 2019, equaling a 27% drop, according to the study.

Visitation numbers that low haven’t been seen since the 1980s when there were only 325 national parks.

While witnessing a decrease of nearly 500,000, Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina held on to the top spot in 2020, a place it has held since 1944, with 12.5 million visitors in 2020.

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