National Park Service Revenues Down $1.3 Million On Transition to America The Beautiful Pass
The demise of the beloved National Parks Pass cost the National Park Service more than $1.3 million last year, although agency officials expect revenues to rebound as folks grow accustomed to the America the Beautiful Pass.
According to Jane Moore, the Park Service's fee program manager, 2006 sales of the $50 National Parks Pass, good for entrance into all units of the national park system, generated $22.1 million for the agency. During 2007, the first year of the $80 America the Beautiful Pass, the agency took in $20.79 million, a 6 percent dip in revenues.
It was just about a year ago that I told you Park Service officials weren't sure how the death of the National Parks Pass would affect their revenue streams. The question arose because of the nature of the ATB pass -- it can be sold by the Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation -- and is good for access to all public lands that charge a fee. And the agency that sells the pass -- at least until officials get a feel for revenue flows -- gets to keep the bulk of the sales revenues.
So if the Park Service sells 80 percent of all ATB passes, it gets to keep 80 percent of the revenues. Ditto for the other agencies. Now, since there are more Forest Service and BLM offices from which to buy the passes than Park Service offices, it's easy to see how the Park Service could trail the other agencies in sales.
So far, though, that isn't occurring. Overall, the Park Service is handling the lion's share of ATB passes. From December 2006 through December 2007 the agency shipped 1.4 million of the passes (annual, senior, access, and volunteer combined), while the BLM shipped 81,100, the Forest Service 304,592, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 64,907, and the Bureau of Reclamation 190 for a total of 1.84 million.
Now, as time goes on things could change with pass sales and revenues. Folks could get more familiar and comfortable with the ATB pass and so sales could increase, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, could be successful in his efforts to revive the National Parks Pass, or the Interior Department's efforts to establish more outlets for ATB passes could boost sales.
Of course, as things go on, if the National Parks Pass isn't resurrected the Park Service could continue to see a loss in revenues. That's because federal officials, trying to help all agencies that sell the pass, might opt to pool all ATB sales revenues and then redistribute them in some fashion, a move that theoretically could hurt the Park Service's take.
Beyond that, trying to judge the popularity (or lack thereof) of the ATB pass on 2006 sales of the National Parks Pass could be a mistake. That's because the 2006 sales might have been an anomaly. Some folks might have rushed out at year's end to spend $50 on the parks pass rather than wait until 2007 when they'd have to pay $80 for the ATB pass.
Indeed, Ms. Moore says the Park Service "had a spike in sales of the National Parks Pass (end of the year) probably due to the change in price."
Too, she points out that "2007 was the first year of the program and we have learned that it takes a while for visitors to be more informed about the program, know where and how to purchase the pass, etc."
"Also, we are in the process of creating agreements with third-party vendors for selling the pass," adds Ms. Moore. "It's growing, but will take a while to re-create new business relationships."
Interestingly, while sales of the ATB pass were down compared to the National Parks Pass, sales were up for senior passes (From $3.6 million for the Park Service's 2006 Golden Age Pass to $4 million for the ATB Senior Pass, a 12 percent increase), park-specific annual passes ($7.2 million in 2006 sales, $9 million in 2007 sales, up 25 percent), and overall park entrance revenues ($77.8 million in 2006, $84.3 million in 2007, up 8 percent).
"We have seen a trend of increased sales of senior passes, site-specific passes and single-visit entrance fees," says Ms. Moore. "NPS entrance fee revenue overall is up. We believe it is partially related to pricing of the new interagency (ATB) pass. It is clear that visitors are more discerning and strategic about paying fees. If they plan to visit many parks or federal sites in a year, they purchase an interagency pass. If, however, they know they may only visit a few times or only visit a particular park, they opt for paying the
entrance fee or buying a local pass."
Which begs the question: What's in your wallet?