IITA to Bring Member Message on National Parks to Capitol Hill

Steve Richer, DC correspondent

On March 21 and 22, a delegation of International Inbound Travel Association officials led by Chair Gary Schluter and Executive Director Lisa Simon will be in Washington to take part in the US Travel Association’s Destination Capitol Hill and meet with policy makers to voice IITA member concerns over national parks issues.

IITA has scheduled meetings to discuss funding concerns and proposed changes to fees and policies impacting national parks, inbound travelers and surrounding communities.

IITA will be meeting with staffs of the U. S. Department of Interior and National Park Service, as well as staff of key decision-making committees in both the House and Senate to discuss economic impacts of proposed changes, and clearly state the concerns and perspective of IITA members.

The National Park Service meeting is with Christine Williamson, who administers the fees program. Our IITA delegation will be addressing the impact of higher fees during peak seasons at the most popular national parks, the inability to get early confirmations for groups, and the challenge of trying to book tours with a lottery system in place to determine entry. These factors are creating unnecessary challenges to pricing, confirming, and booking group tours into key national parks.

The same story will be shared with both majority and minority staff at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee, which include National Parks Subcommittees.

IITA will leave behind short, but powerful, material at each stop illustrating how to best maintain and grow inbound tourism through the national parks to support a positive trend in trade.

Additionally, IITA has targeted the House and Senate Interior Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees to discuss, general fund appropriations for the national parks infrastructure backlog instead of new monies generated by increased park fees and/or revenue from allowing excavations and drilling on public lands, as well as proposed cuts to National Park Service staffing and programs.

Gary Schluter and Lisa Simon will be joined on these appointments by Advocacy Chair Gerrit De Vos, Bonotel Exclusive Travel; DMO Board Director Petra Hackworth, Travel Oregon; Lori Weaver Hawkins of the IITA staff; and Steve Richer, IITA Washington representative. Other members attending DCH and interested in these issues may be able to join the delegation, and should contact Lisa Simon for more information.

Schluter will also be participating on March 20 in a U. S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board meeting, where the same topics are likely to be discussed.