National Park Service backs off tour bus fee

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Denali National Park buses
Tour buses in Alaska's Denali National Park. Photo Credit: Ludmila Ruzickova/Shutterstock

ORLANDO -- The National Parks Service has pulled back a proposal to raise fees on tour operators visiting national parks in 2020, according to the National Tour Association and U.S. Tour Operators Association.

The controversial proposal would have slapped a $300 commercial use authorization (CUA) fee on tour buses visiting each of the country's 400-plus national parks. 

NTA spokesman Bob Rouse called the decision "really good news." The NTA told its members in late November that the National Parks Service "will not implement its previously announced changes to CUA requirements for tour companies, and group tours will not be subject to the per-person entrance fees."

"There might still be changes to the CUA program that come late in 2020, but for the start of the 2020 season, commercial tour operators will pay the same entrance fees as they paid in 2019," the statement said. 

USTOA CEO Terry Dale, speaking here at the group’s annual conference, said that the CUA fee was off the table for the time being due to "our efforts and other industry associations."

USTOA was part of a concerted lobbying campaign by groups including the NTA, the International Inbound Travel Association, the United Motorcoach Association and the American Bus Association, some that met with the National Park System advisory board in Washington in September.

The NTA also credited "a steady flow of information from NTA and a coalition of associations, as well as from individual tour operators," for helping to sway the National Park Service. 

Dale said that when it first introduced the proposal, the National Park Service had not engaged the industry adequately "to understand the impact and how to execute so that it was not so burdensome."

"Fortunately, everyone has been really in their face about the impact," he said. "You don't many times hear that a regulatory body is not moving forward like this. A lot of industry associations and companies were vocal."

However, Dale said that the current move does not mean "we can celebrate and exhale."

"I fully expect at some point it will be revisited, the plan revised or something," he said. "The good news is it’s stopped for now.""

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