By establishing a coalition of like-minded executives from travel industry associations, NTA President Pam Inman has spearheaded an effort to ensure fairness and transparency in the U.S. National Park Service’s proposal to increase fees for entry and Commercial Use Authorizations. The coalition has been engaged with staff members at government agencies and with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
In October last year, NPS released a proposal to substantially raise entrance fees at 17 specific parks across the country, starting in 2018. After receiving more than 110,000 comments from the public, NPS presented an alternative proposal this April. This plan, drastically different than the initial one, would slightly increase fees at 117 different parks—and it pushes back the implementation date to October 2019.
Additionally, the proposal mandates CUA permits and establishes seasonal peak pricing on commercial entry fees at U.S. national parks. The new CUA permitting requirements carry a significant administrative and monetary burden that could have detrimental impacts on NTA members. NTA has consistently emphasized that the NPS’ proposal unfairly targets both consumers and tour operators alike.
The 18-month notice prior to implementation, which Pam negotiated, was integral in ensuring that NTA members have time to plan for fee hikes and, we hope, to engage with elected officials and explain the impact of those increases. Pam’s leadership on this issue led to a better understanding on the part of government officials about the need for advance notification for changes in fees; this delay will prove invaluable down the road, when the higher fees are rolled out.
NTA understands and supports the need for adequate funds to address the mounting maintenance backlog at U.S. national parks, and the association wants to continue to work in concert with NPS and Congress. But NTA also wants to ensure that this goal is achieved without harming its members and the travel and tourism industry. Further, NTA’s fear is that if foot traffic at national parks decreases due to increased prices, revenues will decline and maintenance issues will only be exacerbated.
Members of the 115th Congress, which started in January 2017, introduced legislative fixes to address the maintenance needs of national parks. Companion bills in the Senate and House, both titled the National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017, would have established the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund—and funded it through 2047—but unfortunately, these bills stalled in committee.
The October 2019 implementation date looms on the horizon, and NTA remains focused on minimizing the detrimental effect of fee increases and a burdensome CUA permitting process. While NTA continues to engage on this issue in Washington, we ask that you make your voice heard by contacting your representative and senator.
NTA’s advocacy targets the elected officials who have direct oversight over the Department of Interior and NPS, and it also relies on your direct communication with the elected officials that represent where you live and where your business or organization is based.
The NTA footprint across the nation is broad, and it is absolutely crucial that the association’s message to Capitol Hill and all of Washington, D.C., is equally extensive. There is nothing stronger than your authentic sentiments, expressing your unique insight and personal experiences to help government leaders understand the impact of policy on voters’ lives and livelihoods.
Signal Group is a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm retained by NTA to advise members about travel-related issues and legislation.
Top photo: McKinley Station Trail Walk
Photo by CC Flickr/NPS-Nathan Kostegian: bit.ly/2lj4O1R