Several Utah groups, along with nearly 400 tourism industry groups, sent a letter to the National Park Service (NPS) calling for changes to the park reservation systems to better accommodate international travelers.
According to a Modern Campground News Report, nearly 400 organizations in the travel industry, domestic and international, sent the letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and NPS Director Chuck Sams, calling for reforms to the visitor reservation systems in national parks.
The letter states the need for the reservation systems came from the record visitation numbers during the pandemic. However, reservation booking times must be extended to 10-12 months for the foreign travel industry to recover, according to a report.
Currently, Utah’s Arches National Park only allows people to get timed-entry tickets about two months in advance.
Wittwer Hospitality CEO Shayne Wittwer, whose company operates hotels across Southern Utah, said he supports maintaining the large crowds like what he witnessed in 2021. However, he also said people want to be sure they can enter a park before they commit to a big trip.
“The majority of people traveling from overseas are going to spend at least or close to a year planning,” Wittwer said, including the lengthy time it takes to secure a visa. “On top of that, they’re looking at airfare, booking, hotels, and where they haven’t been before.”
He thinks a timed-entry system should be the last resort for crowding, and parks should consider other ways to improve their visitor experience, like more parking and shuttles.
At Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park, activities are quiet during this time of the year. Hotel General Manager Lance Syrett, also a signatory of the letter, said making it easier for international visitors to come over could help his business, which heavily relies on them.
Even though Bryce doesn’t require a reservation to enter, he said these kinds of visitors often take a few weeks to travel through the region to several parks. Having some that require reservations a few months out, he said, could discourage people from visiting the area altogether.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “I mean … why can’t they make a reservation that far out it? This makes no sense.”
The Utah Tourism Industry Association signed the letter as well. Natalie Randall, the executive director, said they were able to work with Arches to mitigate issues with international travel. Now, she said the park doesn’t require some large tour bus groups to have a reservation.
“These are complex issues that impact various businesses at the local level,” she said. “So having individual solutions regionally is really what we are supportive of.”
She and other state tourism leaders said they hope the next step is reassessing the pilot timed-entry program at Arches to make adjustments.
In a statement, National Park Service spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said they appreciate the feedback as they “adjust and improve these management tools, and as we evaluate ways to ensure consistent and clear expectations for visitors planning park trips. We look forward to our continued communication with the travel industry on subjects of mutual interest.”
This article originally appeared on Kuer.