Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving! In a continuation of the National Parks “saga” from my last column, I have good news to share. The National Park Service has extended the comment period for the Proposed Changes to Commercial Tour Requirements and Fees and the across-the-board Fee Increases and Peak Season Rates – the new deadline is December 22.
IITA collaborated with two coalitions to urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to extend the comment period, as did other organizations and even Members of Congress. Working in tandem across the industry gives us a stronger, unified voice that we hope will be heard by the Department of Interior as we oppose these sweeping changes. The significant fee increases proposed would have a serious impact on the economies of surrounding destinations and suppliers as well as limiting tour operators’ inclusion of national parks in our product lines.
In other national park news, Arches National Park has proposed reservation systems for individuals and commercial tour operators to go into effect, January 1, 2019. Last week, I attended an open comment hearing at Arches and spoke with the superintendent about our concerns, including the number of questions that remain unanswered in their proposal:
- How will international travelers looking to visit Moab be educated about the reservation requirement, specifically, that they cannot book the park until 6 months before arrival?
- What if their dates are sold out and they’ve already booked their travel and lodging?
- What will happen if one of our guests has delayed their travels—a flight delay into Denver or Salt Lake City, road conditions that cause a long detour, an illness that causes them to delay by 1-2 days – do they lose their chance to visit this park or take a chance on the “lottery” for day-before/day-of passes?
- How will tour operators be able to take late bookings into Moab when preferred dates will likely sell out quickly?
The superintendent’s comments indicated she believes it will happen, which raises another major concern. How many other parks would follow and how soon?
Couple this reservation system with the proposed fee increases, and what a jumbled mess it will be for tour operators and our international visitors, not to mention the American public.
We speak for all of our members when addressing these issues with the National Park Service. I have been warning for the past year that this was about to explode on us—although I did not think that it would come so quickly, and in so many harmful ways all at once.
We are preparing comments to strongly oppose the proposed Arches reservation system and the proposed fee increases/changes to commercial tour requirements, and we urge you to do the same.
Comments for Arches must be made by December 4. We will share more information with you on our position as we near the comment period deadline.
-Gary Schluter, Chairman
Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours