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Travel industry wants more lead time for National Park reservations

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Nearly 400 travel industry organizations—including domestic and international organizations—have sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Chuck Sams calling for reforms to the visitor reservation systems in the national parks.

Specifically, reservation systems with short booking windows and inconsistent procedures are not workable for international travelers and international tour operators, many of whom plan travel a full year in advance. The letter proposes that reservations be allowed 10 to 12 months in advance, and that reservation systems are consistent across parks that implement them.

While reservation systems are not appropriate at all national park sites, any action by the Interior Department to expand new reservation systems for parks should be preceded by engagement and discussion with national park constituencies, including gateway communities, tour operators, and those that provide transportation to and through parks.

The reservation systems were largely implemented in the wake of record visitation that occurred at some of the country’s most popular national parks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting international visitation

Overseas travelers made up more than a third (35%) of the 327 million visitors to national parks in 2019 and are crucial to the economies of national park gateway communities. With international inbound travel spending not expected to recover until 2025, it is crucial that the sector can continue its recovery without impediments.

“The national parks are some of the biggest draws for overseas visitors, but the short booking windows make it nearly impossible for visitors to plan their trips,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “By extending the booking window to at least 10 months, we can ensure that the parks remain open and welcoming to overseas visitors while protecting our cherished wildlife, landscapes and natural resources.”

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Donald N Wright
4 months ago

Interesting, I am unable to convince AAA to make reservations for me in a National or State park.

David Jackman
4 months ago

I wonder if limiting the number of foreign visitors would give the rest of us a chance to get into the National Parks? If you are determined to overbook, do with citizens.

Jeb
4 months ago
Reply to  David Jackman

Took the words out of my mouth.

Paul
4 months ago

I sort of sympathize with the foreign travel planners, but if we give them an advantage we may closeout the parks to our own citizens. Many of us cannot plan 10 months out with any assurance that our jobs will permit us to take advantage of the reservation. A travel organization can book up 10 months out and sell the placement up to the day of departure, holding it back from local residents. Actually why not block travel organizations from advance bookings and leave the spaces for US Citizens and travelers that can’t plan so far ahead. the parks will still be full!

Bruce Pomazal
4 months ago

A longer reservation window is good for everyone planning a trip, not just international folks. If we get disgruntled because a businesses is trying to make a buck, we’ll all lose and be unhappy. We should have some first come first serve slots but having been caught trying to get a space at one of those campgrounds – that’s a big nope.

David V
4 months ago

The ‘Travel Industry’ wants this! THAT should be a red flag! Just how much $$$ does the Industry make off of foreign visitors? 327mil in 2019…that’s almost the population of the United States. I’m sure greed is driving this!

CCreek
4 months ago

National parks are for Americans first. Go back to first come first serve or leave alone.

mmarks
4 months ago

These international tour group bring in busloads of visitors and they pay the same fees that we do and that is not fair. International visitors should pay a much larger fee as they are not paying taxes to help with the upkeep. These large groups are a burden on our park systems so they should pay far more than they do now.

Suru
4 months ago
Reply to  mmarks

I thought the same as you on a recent visit to Yellowstone. 3-4 busloads of foreign visitors would decend on a area all at once. Kind of ruined the experience. I’m sure they were staying and eating outside of the park and very little of their dollars actually went to the National Park Service.

CT Huskie
4 months ago
Reply to  mmarks

I agree that international visitors need to pay more than US citizens to visit our parks. US citizens pay way too much in taxes to let internationals ruin our parks and our park experiences. The National Park Service should take a lesson from state supported colleges and universities and charge those who don’t already support the system at LEAST twice as much as US citizens pay. Maybe even three times as much. Also the number of tour buses entering parks each day should be limited.

Ed K
4 months ago

I think we should go back to some first come first served camp sites in all the national parks. Make 50% to 75% reservable and the rest open as people arrive.

Michael Gardner
4 months ago

10 months may make it easier for international visitors but it will make it impossible for national visitors as reservations are snatched up as soon as they open!

Ran
4 months ago

I agree. It’s nearly impossible for the locals to get into the parks, even a year in advance! Most states are even charging a lot more for out of state visitors. Now what?!….