Campaign spotlights national parks


WASHINGTON -- America's national parks are taking center stage in a new marketing campaign designed to encourage not only foreign but domestic travelers to "See America's National Parks."

That tagline this year will be associated with a sweepstakes, special travel packages and a microsite promoting the parks within the Travel Industry Association's (TIA) Web site,

It also will appear in ads starting in the spring in USA Today and the Sunday Times of London.

The campaign is the joint effort of the TIA, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, which signed an agreement to bolster visitation to America's 388 national parks and to increase the sale of park passes.

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton outlined the program during her keynote address at the TIA's 22nd Annual Travel & Tourism Industry Unity Dinner here last week.

"It is a partnership that will bear fruit," she said.

Norton added that the Department of the Interior, the parent of the National Park Service, also has agreements to work with the Southeast Tourism Society and the Western States Tourism Policy Council to encourage visits to national parks in those regions.

At the same time, an increased sale of park passes would help boost revenues for the parks, which are suffering from a backlog of $4.9 billion in repairs.

Norton said the Bush administration has earmarked $1 billion for the parks in its 2005 federal budget proposal.

She said partnerships with tourism industry associations would help encourage more domestic and inbound travelers to visit not only well-known parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone but also their lesser-known counterparts, which include historic sites, battlefields, seashores and parkways.

"It will help us inform the public about the many magnificent opportunities we have to offer," Norton said, while encouraging tourism to the parks "for generations to come."

Along with announcing the "See America's National Parks" campaign, the TIA released a study that shows nearly 40% of U.S. adults had visited a national park in the past five years.

That resulted in some 87 million leisure person-trips, which are measured as 50 miles or more one-way from home.

Based on data collected in 2002, the National Park Traveler Study also found travelers cited experiencing nature (92%), education (90%) and culture and history (89%) as the top reasons for visiting national parks, along with spending time with their families (89%).

The study also found that at least 38% of visitors to national parks planned their trips on the Internet.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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