Parks Canada, which oversees 209 national parks and national historic sites, hopes a marketing agency can get more people to visit those treasures.
While visitation to those properties managed by Parks Canada fell a bit more than 7 percent from the 2006-07 season, when 21.8 million visitors were counted, to the 2010-11 season, when 20.2 million were tallied, Parks Canada wants the marketing agency Veritas to come up with a campaign that will boost vistitation by 10 percent by 2015.
In the United States, visitation to the nearly 400 units of the National Park System has not struggled as much. During 2006 the park system counted 272,623,980 recreational visits, a number that grew to 285,579,941 in 2009 before dropping to 281,303,769 in 2010. While a final count hasn't been generated for last year, it's expected to be relatively flat from 2010's tally.
U.S. parks that have reported their 2011 visitation make it hard to discern any overriding trend, however. Yellowstone National Park in 2011 notched its fifth-consecutive year of more than 3 million visitors, Glacier National Park has reported a nearly 16 pecent drop and Great Smoky Mountains National Park reportedly saw a 6 percent drop, and yet park system units in Alaska overall reported a 2 percent increase in visitors last year.
According to The Canadian Press, which first reported news that Parks Canada was hiring a marketing firm, the campaign to get more visitors out to that country's parks hinges on getting "urban and new Canadians in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver" excited about and interested in the parks.
While the U.S. National Park Service hasn't hired a marketing agency to boost its visitation numbers, a summit in Washington, D.C., next week will, in part, explore ways to make the parks more relevant in a national context.
Hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Park Foundation, and the National Park Hospitality Association, the two-day America's Summit on National Parks: Taking Action for a New Century will examine such varied topics as the upcoming centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, connecting youth to the parks, and the "next generation" of national parks.