The United States Travel Association is urging the Biden Administration to reform the current visitor reservation systems for the National Park Service.
The association sent a letter requesting the changes to Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Parks Service Director Chuck Sams. It was signed by nearly 400 domestic and international travel organizations.
The complaints stem primarily from an inability for international travelers to plan visits to the national parks. It’s an issue that cropped up during the coronavirus pandemic when domestic visits to the parks skyrocketed.
“During the pandemic, several parks saw record-breaking visitation from domestic visitors, which, coupled with staffing and operational limitations, threatened both the conservation of parks lands and the visitor experience,” the letter reads. “This led several of our largest and most popular parks to implement reservation systems for visitors.”
Those systems, however, exclude international travelers because of the way they are operated, the letter claims.
The association noted that overseas travel made up more than a third of national parks visits in 2019. That’s more than 100 million visitors.
“The U.S. is one of the few places in the world that protects and conserves its natural resources, while also allowing visitation and recreation,” the letter continues. “For international travel to recover, foreign travelers and tour operators must be able to plan their trips in advance. Inbound travel cannot fully resume until international travelers can reliably plan their visits to our national parks.”
The association’s primary complaints are short lead-in times and inconsistent procedures, making it next to impossible for international travelers to secure booking for the parks.
The association is asking the reservations to be allowed 10–12 months in advance.
“It is also imperative that reservation systems be consistent across parks that implement them,” the letter reads.
The association said these changes will help speed up the slow recovery of the U.S. travel industry, which has suffered greatly during the pandemic.
International travel was down 78 percent in 2021, resulting in an economic loss of $755 billion, the association claims.
“The travel industry is ready to partner with you to implement visitation procedures that work for all of the National Parks Service’s interests while also facilitating the return of inbound visitors,” the letter concludes.
The association requested a seat at the table whenever the request is considered.
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