Letter to NPS
Dear Director Vela,
I hope you, your family and all your NPS colleagues are healthy and staying safely distanced from this terrible coronavirus. It is a difficult time for all to maintain a state of normalcy with the unpredictability of COVID-19 and the impact to our daily lives and businesses.
We expect and appreciate that your top priority at this unprecedented time is ensuring the safety of NPS employees and visitors, just as tour operators and travel professionals are busy trying to “fight the current fires” in their businesses. Group tours for Americans and international visitors to national parks have ceased and tour operators are currently dealing with cancellations for the 2020 season and in many cases working to rebook this year’s trips in 2021 to avoid outright cancellations.
On behalf of those tour operators maneuvering through this crisis, we urge you to postpone the CUA program for road-based commercial tours and new corresponding group fees until at the earliest Jan 2022.
As the new fee structure has not even been announced and 2021 programs are already being priced and sold, including many of the 2020 group arrivals being postponed until 2021, there will not be sufficient time for operators to incorporate the new fees into 2021 programs. And when international partners are rebooking April/May 2020 trips for the same time next year, they are asking to keep the cost the same as much as possible to keep their clients’ business, and with the uncertainty of what a visit to a National Park might cost next year, tour operators will either take the loss of any increases or potentially lose the business.
It is also not lost on us that many of these companies will have reduced staff capacity and the CUA requirements and processes will be a greater administrative burden than anticipated.
We know the travel industry is resilient and that international travelers will be some of the first to resume travel. And after this period of pent up demand, we want to encourage them to come to the USA by keeping it cost effective for them to visit “America’s Beautiful Parks” that have been a major attraction for many years past—and to come.
We commit to continuing to work with you and the National Park Service team to promote best practices among tour operators, tour guides and group travelers, to alleviate concerns among the parks, and to lighten the pressure of visitors on our natural resources. First, we must work together to bring our inbound travelers quickly back to the USA, help our tourism industry rebound, and fuel the recovery of the nation’s economy following this health crisis.
On behalf of IITA, we thank you and the National Park Service team for your consideration, and look forward to working with you to promote a cost-effective group tour CUA program in 2022.
All the best,
Gary Schluter, Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours Lisa Simon
Chair Executive Director