New TV Series Sparks National Park Visits

Just maybe travel agents will enjoy a spike in consumer interest in travel to U.S. National Parks with this weeks start of Ken Burns Public Broadcast System (PBS) series The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

The six-episode series was directed by Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a powerful narrative of how the U. S. national Parks came into being.

The documentary – there is also a book and DVD  – urges Americans to explore the colorful history of each of the nearly 400 major parks featured in the documentary. The National Parks Service (NPS), the government agency responsible for the parks, is also gearing up for what it calls the “Ken Burns Effect” as millions of Americans are tuning in this week.

“The Burns film is reinvigorating America’s love of their national parks,” said Jon Jarvis, recently confirmed as the 18th Director of the National Park Service. “We invite all Americans to embrace their ownership of national parks, to come out for a visit, and to renew or create personal connections, and make memories that will last a lifetime. National parks are for everyone. National parks belong to every citizen. Please join us in caring for these special places.”

As many as 11.7 million visit the national parks, the NPS says, noting that there are 391 national parks to choose from. The NPS urges travelers to explore options online at  The NPS also notes that it welcomes more than 170,000 volunteers every year who help parks with everything from clearing trails, to staffing information desks, to counting species in a BioBlitz.

The travel industry has a special relationship with the national parks – who rank among the most popular destinations – and has urged that entrance and user fees should be equitable and reasonable, ensuring that all visitors, whether traveling individually or with a tour group, have equal access to the national parks.

The National Tour Association (NTA) has had a long and close relationship with the NPS and has worked constructively with the NPS to insure group access. The NTA has also urged early notice of fee increases and that all or most of the new revenues generated by national parks should be reinvested in the parks. Many NTA member tour operators offer outstanding tours of national parks and will be on display during the NTA's Convention '09 in Reno, Nevada, Nov. 14-18.