According to a new study conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), nearly 40 percent of all U.S. adults have visited a national park at least once in the past five years. In 2002 alone, U.S. traveling households generated 87 million leisure person-trips* including national or state parks. In addition, 20 percent of international visitors included a trip to a national or state park in 2002.
A majority of Americans (82%) are aware that U.S. national parks can also include historic sites, battlefields, seashores, or parkways. In addition, most travelers who visit national parks are highly satisfied with their park experience (93%). The National Parks Traveler report was sponsored by Delaware North Companies.
U.S. park travelers say they are drawn to national parks to experience nature (92%), for the educational benefit (90%), to experience culture and history (89%), and to spend time with family (89%). There is an extensive range of activities that national parks travelers enjoy, including outdoor sports (44%) and recreation (39%), general tourism and sightseeing (39%), water recreation (17%) and National Park Service (NPS) programs (11%). In addition, among those visiting a national park while traveling in the last five years, a clear majority (75%) stayed overnight in or within 10 miles of the parks on their most recent trip.
Data from The National Parks Traveler report support a new national campaign entitled “See America’s National Parks,” a partnership between TIA, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. Hosted on a special micro site at www.SeeAmerica.org, one of the primary goals of the program is to raise awareness of the breadth and diversity of the 388 designated sites within the National Park Service system.
“By learning how Americans interact with their National Parks, this research not only gives us insight into how we can market the parks but also demonstrates the timeliness of the See America’s National Parks campaign and partnership,” remarked William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America.
The Internet is by far the preferred method (38%) of planning a trip including a park visit. Not surprisingly, Generations X and Y (47%) and Baby Boomers (41%) are much more likely than Matures (27%) to use the Internet to plan, as well as those with an annual household income of $75,000 (48%). And while nearly half (47%) of travelers visiting national parks plan their trip one month or more in advance, 25 percent do not decide where they are going to stay before their visit.
“We are operators in national parks, but we prefer to think of ourselves as stewards of some of America’s great treasures,” said Dennis J. Szefel, group president of Delaware North’s Hospitality & Entertainment Group, which includes Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. “This research will help us continue to meet the needs of our guests and to attract new ones to our nation’s parks.”
The “See America’s National Parks” partnership is also dedicated to raising funds to protect and preserve the parks by selling National Parks Passes. The pass provides unlimited annual admission to any national park requiring an entry fee. The majority of the funds raised go right back into the National Parks to fund vital projects. While The National Parks Traveler report shows a relatively low level of awareness and purchase of National Parks Passes, it indicates an interest by park-goers in future purchases. Fundraising efforts such as these will help NPS deliver what may be their most important message, “take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
* A person-trip is one person on one trip traveling 50 miles or more from home, one way.