TIA marketing effort to spotlight national parks

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WASHINGTON -- The Travel Industry Association (TIA), in cooperation with the National Park Service and the National Parks Foundation, is preparing a major marketing campaign to raise awareness of and encourage visits to U.S. national parks.

The campaign, called "See America's National Parks," will officially kick off in April. Its centerpiece will be a Web site -- accessible through www.seeamerica.org, the TIA's travel search engine -- which will link to a micro-site featuring information on national parks and tours.

Ads promoting the site and the parks will appear starting next spring in USA Today and the Sunday Times of London.

In the meantime, the TIA is "fast and furiously working with the National Tour Association to load into our Web site all of the various tours and packages its members offer," said Betsy O'Rourke, the TIA's senior vice president of marketing and communications.

O'Rourke said the TIA is "calling on the industry to develop itineraries of interest that include national parks, particularly out of gateway cities" and geared to both U.S. and inbound travelers.

She said the TIA intends to link the package information to the SeeAmerica.org site.

"We will be able to search all of the existing [operator] Web sites plus add our own content," O'Rourke said.

She said a key goal of the campaign is to "explain the breath and diversity of the park system," noting that many travelers are familiar with Yellowstone and other major parks but often are unaware that there may be a national park in their own backyard.

"As wonderful as our icon parks are, there are many Americans and international visitors who have no idea that there are 388 parks and historic places within the National Park System," O'Rourke said. "Many of those are an easy drive from a gateway city."

The campaign also will promote "responsible tourism" by emphasizing the National Park Pass, which offers a year's admission to all national parks for $50. The proceeds go into a fund for park renovation and preservation.

In addition, plans call for a public relations campaign in North America, Europe, Asia and South America and a sweepstakes.

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

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