02 Aug How National Parks Took Over 2016 Travel
According to Smith Travel Research, AAA just released a report saying that interest in the National Park System has reached an all-time high. Dubbed “America’s Best Idea” by documentarian Ken Burns, the NPS has skyrocketed in popularity this year; 79% of Americans are visiting or planning to visit the attractions in 2016. You’ve probably seen one of the top contenders yourself — Great Smoky, Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountains — because they stand the test of time as national favorites. It’s no mystery what created this boom: Major funding, a centennial anniversary, embracing trends, and more factors helped fuel this new wave of success for parks. We’ll dive further into that later.
A brief history: The NPS was founded by President Woodrow Wilson 100 years ago and grew from a small 35-park system to its much larger territory today. According to the NPS website, “The National Park System of the United States now comprises more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress.”
We don’t doubt their national significance, but at first glance, the popularity surge comes as a surprise. When we look again, though, we can see the logic: Parks appeal to people of all generations. First of all, the Boomer generation loves parks and often brings other generations along for the ride. Since Boomers account for some of the biggest spenders in the travel game, they’re likely more willing to fund a trip to parks that are more geographically remote. On the more Millennial side of the spectrum, the NPS has capitalized on the huge Pokemon Go trend and encouraged users to play in their parks, which sends young Poke
nerds fans out to the wilderness in droves. Clearly, they’re working with the “come one, come all!” mentality that resonates with Americans.
This may be older news, but it’s not something Americans easily forgot. Three years ago, the NPS started an initiative, aptly named “America’s Best Idea Program,” to make sure underserved citizens had more access to national parks. For example, a Georgia park granted six homeless high schoolers the chance to work for a paid internship, a safe and quiet place to stay, and priceless experience. In Missouri, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial granted autistic children a safe place to meet, learn, and communicate in a summer camp environment. Clearly, the parks not only entertain us; they also foster our sense of community and service.
Customers respond to major anniversaries, and the NPS will officially celebrate their centennial on August 25 of this year. They’ve been successfully promoting this milestone through marketing efforts, including special events, new postage stamps and coins, and even a new IMAX movie.
If you needed another reason to love parks…Where else can you see such beautiful sights for free (or almost free) while getting some much-needed exercise? There are few travel destinations that offer the health benefits, affordability, and peace of mind of these outdoor wonders. Maybe it’s time to join 79% of America in enjoying a 100-year-old tradition. Happy Birthday, parks!
Our travel = A walk in the park!