Courier January Courier - Page 12

ADVOCACY A united voice NTA forms coalition that responds to rising fees at U.S. national parks. ON OCT. 24, the U.S. National Park Service proposed to increase fee sched- ules, mandate commercial use autho- rization permits and establish seasonal peak pricing on commercial tour opera- tor entry fees at 17 of America’s most visited national parks. Its goal is to address the nearly $12 billion in main- tena nce projects that have been delayed due to budget constraints. These adjustments to entry and permit fees—including CUA applica- tion and management fees—will have a serious impact on the many NTA tour companies that package the parks and on area concessionaires. NTA President Pam Inman immedi- ately contacted NPS officials to express concerns. And to amplify NTA’s voice, Inman organized a coalition of indus- try associations, which collaborated on a Nov. 13 letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Here are excerpts from that letter: be achieved through more thoughtful measures that will not jeopardize the role the travel and tourism industry plays in promoting the enjoyment of our national parks and creating jobs. We want to work with your department to enhance the experiences these trea- sures offer travelers. As a starting point, we need to consider how best to meet the objectives, in terms of setting rea- sonable price increases and, specifically, the timing of any sort of increase. The travel and tourism industry, which includes a range of organizations that represent the business interests of commercial tour operators and motor- coach travel, is concerned about the U.S. National Park Service’s recent proposal to increase fee schedules, mandate com- mercial use authorization permits and establish seasonal peak pricing on com- mercial entry fees at 17 national parks. Our organizations help to ensure that the movement of people through our parks is as efficient as possible. For example, just one bus can take up to 55 cars off the road, providing congestion [reduction] and environmental benefits to all park users. Commercial buses and tour groups are critical to the economic health of the NPS. In FY 2012, com- mercial bus fees were the third highest revenue-related source for the parks. That standing only has increased in recent years behind record-breaking vis- its from the travel and tourism industry, due in part to the support from the listed associations. National parks are among America’s top destinations, and our industry has consistently advocated for park fund- ing. While we recognize that additional fees are needed to preserve our nation’s natural treasures, we are concerned the lack of a more staged implementation period to fairly and equitably imple- ment the fee increase into tour pack- ages will be burdensome on users of the parks and tour companies. We recognize the need to maintain and improve America’s national parks. However, we believe the NPS goals can 10 January 2018 The associations represented on this letter have had a longstanding agree- ment with the NPS that we would be notified 18 months ahead of any entrance-fee increases to enable pric- ing adjustments. This is critical for our members and their customers, as many companies book tour groups months, if not years, in advance. With the recent announcement, we are concerned about how this will impact not only our tour companies and their customers, but also the area concessionaires and the local destination attractions that serve these visitors near the parks.