From ‘sea to shining sea’

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CHIP ROGERS

AAHOA President & CEO

America’s vast and beautiful natural resources drive tourism.

One of the greatest blessings America has is its incredible natural resources and opportunities for outdoor recreation. These assets to the country are major drivers of the economy – and contribute directly to the healthy bottom line of the lodging industry.

This month, Today’s Hotelier features an article by our friends at The Pew Charitable Trust that discusses the need to revitalize the federally controlled national parks. Marcia August, the director of the group’s efforts to restore the national parks, has some incredible statistics. Visitors to the National Park Service spent more than $5.7 billion on lodging in 2016. In fact, of all the economic beneficiaries from visitors to the parks, lodging took the most at 30 percent.

America’s natural resources do not end at the boundary line of its national parks, however. They continue to the multitude of state and local parks that all attract visitors in their own right. Visitors to state parks throughout the country spent billions more on lodging last year, in addition to supporting restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues – the network of businesses that together create the critical mass that keeps all businesses successful.

Protecting our natural resources so they can be enjoyed by future generations is also a renewed focus of the Trump administration. Two of the president’s cabinet members are implementing changes to the government’s approach on natural resources.

Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior Department (which oversees the National Park Service), calls himself a conservationist in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States who signed into the law the creation of the first national parks.

“I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’” Zinke said. “I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come.”

Last month, Zinke announced a $50 million down payment on the national parks’ severely backlogged maintenance.

Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is determined to better balance the agency’s mission of protecting natural resources while also encouraging economic growth.

“I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment,” said Pruitt. “We can and we will achieve clean air and clean water, and we will also have strong economic growth and job creation at the same time.”

The former Oklahoma attorney general has implemented a new Back-to-Basics Agenda at the agency, focusing on the “three E’s,” the Environment, the Economy, and Engaging with state and local partners. According to the New York Times, Pruitt has rolled back more than 30 regulations imposed by the previous administration.

National, state and local parks attract visitors from across the region, country and the world with their pristine beauty and opportunity for family-friendly outdoor recreation. From “sea to shining sea,” America’s abundant natural resources are a point of pride and the foundation of local economies, especially the lodging community. Cherish them.

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