National Park Service backs off tour bus fee

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 the NTA,
the International Inbound Travel Association and the United Motorcoach
Association that included meeting 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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