Steve Richer, DC correspondent
A delegation of inbound tour operators led by IITA Chair Gary Schluter and Executive Director Lisa Simon will attend Destination Capitol Hill in Washingotn D.C., March 21-22, to advocate for some of the broadly based tourism issues, as well as those particularly important to our members. The event is organized by US Travel. (Note: You can still register for this event and join Gary and Lisa there by following this link.)
The big picture items will focus on the continuation of Brand USA, America’s international marketing effort; ease of access for travelers to the United States; appropriate funding for national parks; and addressing the infrastructure backlog issue.
Attendees will get briefings on these issues on March 21, while the visits to individual Congressional offices for both the Senate and House of Representatives will occur on March 22. US Travel and its consultants at Soapbox make these appointments for attendees based on their home states and other Members of Congress with whom the attendees are acquainted.
The IITA delegation is going to use some of the time on March 21 to supplement the Congressional office visits by reaching out to Congressional committee staff for those committees and subcommittees that handle the substance of national parks policy and funding. There will also be an effort to set up a meeting at the Department of Interior on the same issues.
Targeted for meetings are the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the House Committee on Natural Resources, the Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, as well as the National Park Service staff at Interior.
IITA is preparing a paper on entry fees, timely availability for group reservations, funding sources for infrastructure backlog, programs, and operations, and proposed uses for public lands.
Generally speaking, points of advocacy will be the maintenance of reasonable and consistent fees (not higher ones at peak seasons at more popular parks); confirmations for groups months in advance without a lottery system; as well as general fund allocations–not fee based increases–for parks operations, infrastructure backlog, and programs, but without an appropriatons 7 percent cut causing loss of staff and popular programs, no reductions in size of public lands, especially national parks, or proposed uses, such as oil drilling or mineral extraction.
These might all be a heavy lift in the face of the current priorities of the Trump Administration; however, there are many friends of the national parks on these committees and subcommittees to whom the story of how the parks generate a positive balance of trade through international inbound tourism will be well received.
The huge investment of Brand USA to promote the national parks in the last few years, especially through the worldwide distribution and showing of the IMAX film, “National Park Adventure,” has been paying off big time with numerous international visitors coming to see these unique gems. The extensive use of inbound operators is a big part of that success and its role in tourism being a positive trade element. Of course, IITA tour operator members are best able to tell this story to Congress!
If you have any information, anecdotes or testimonials that will help document our story as we prepare for the Capitol Hill visits, please submit them to Lori Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than March 10.