Concessioners: Sequestration Will Hurt Parks
Sequestration and its inflexible cuts in federal spending will mean serious economic challenges to businesses near national parks and other federally managed recreation areas, lead to reductions in the quality of national park visits for millions of families, and hurt the national parks themselves, according to the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA), which represents national park concessioners across the country.
In a news release, NPHA stated that many visitors to national parks rely on the large and small businesses that operate in the parks as concessioners, supplying lodging, food, transportation, retail needs and guide services. Those visitors spend more than $1 billion annually, supporting 25,000 jobs and payments of nearly $100 million in concessioner fees retained and used by the National Park Service.
Spending cuts being considered by the National Park Service to meet sequestration requirements could force reduced operations and even closures by concessioners and reduce the revenue currently generated for the parks by visitors and concessioners. As NPHA Counselor Derrick Crandall pointed out, “There is real danger that $115 million in cuts caused by sequestration could directly trigger reduced visitation and spending which will magnify these cuts – in fact, in some cases, the impact could double.”
NPHA noted that travel and tourism have helped lead economic recovery efforts, in part because of a surge in international visitors. “Spending by international visitors has the same beneficial impact for our national economy as exporting crops and airplanes,” said Crandall. He noted that a new national effort by Brand USA to promote U.S. visitation abroad is highlights national parks and is showing good results, but that even talk of delayed openings of parks and curtailed hours at visitor centers could lead to trip cancellations by inbound travelers.
Concessioners have told the Congress and the National Park Service that, although they oppose the across-the-board cuts under sequestration, they are ready to explore better solutions to deficit reduction, including ways to increase federal fees, leverage federal spending and replace federal operations with concessioner efforts that can lower costs and add to the fees concessioners pay to the National Park Service.
To help identify those solutions, on March 19 NPHA will join with other key park community groups and a bipartisan group of national leaders in Washington, D.C., to discuss sustainable and supplementary funding for America’s national parks. In addition to fees, the session will consider ways to boost corporate and charitable support for parks, strategies to make effective use of veterans and youth conservation corps on park-related projects, and ways to better partner with state and local tourism interests to address park needs.
“We are facing real financial challenges,” said Crandall, “and the national park concessioners are committed to finding and implementing effective ways to meet those challenges.”