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Tour Operators Get A Break From Higher Park Entrance Fees


Who says special interest groups don't have clout?

While national park entrance fees for families and individuals have been inching ever upwards, the National Tour Association has negotiated a deal with the National Park Service to freeze entrance fees for tour groups through 2009.

"The opportunity for timely input has prevented serious financial and operational hardships for NTA tour operators and their clients," says Randy Julian, NTA's chairman and chief executive officer. "It is rewarding to work with our Park Service partners on fee and management regulations before they are locked in."

How much do tour buses pay to enter the parks? Well, a quick check of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks shows the fee is $300 for a motorcoach with at least 26 passengers, or roughly $11.50 per passenger.

Not only was NTA able to temporarily halt higher entrance fees for its members, the group also got the Park Service to agree to give them 16 months' notice of increases in the fees. So, next August the Park Service is supposed to tell NTA what the commercial fees will be in 2010.


$11.50 is a lot of money on a per person basis. I don't blame the tour operators for seeking some sort of redress to these outrageously high rates.

Since the parks are so politically controlled I'm not surprised that industry leaders appealed to whomever they can get to listen to them about the negative economic impact these outrageous fees will have on an international travel industry that the park service always touts as a positive benefit of having a national park in your neighborhood. I'm sure that some sort of Congressional pressure was applied first before the poobahs in WASO relented to the concerns of the tour operators.

I hope this will keep fees down for everyone, so I'm glad someone was able to put this issue on the table.

Dividing the total operating cost of Yellowstone by total visitation (FY2006) yields a per visitor cost of $10.68. In Yosemite, it's $7.39 per person. Based on this, I think $11.50 is fairly reasonable or even a bit high.

And for a thorough treatment of interest groups, see Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working
by Jonathan Rauch (who argues that interest groups are really not "special" at all--we all belong to at least one, and in many cases, multiple interest groups).

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