Nearly 400 organizations in the travel industry, domestic and international, have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Park Service (NPS) Director Chuck Sams, calling for reforms to the national parks’ visitor reservation systems.
The call aimed explicitly at reservation systems with short booking windows and inconsistent procedures that cannot work for international travelers and tour operators, many of whom plan to travel a full year in advance, according to a report.
The letter proposes that reservations be allowed 10 to 12 months in advance, and that reservation systems be 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 implemented mainly due to record visitations at some of the country’s most popular national parks during the 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—and accelerate—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 ten months, we can ensure that the parks remain open and welcoming to overseas visitors while protecting our cherished wildlife, landscapes, and natural resources.”
This article originally appeared on Breaking Travel News.