By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
National parks rank high as a dream destination for 66 percent of active leisure travelers surveyed in the 2010 Portrait of the American Traveler Survey, meeting key traveler goals such as beauty and safety.
The purpose of the first Park Visitor Research Summit — held Jan. 7 and 8 in Yosemite National Park — was to assist the National Park Service with new ideas and help promote the national park industry by providing them survey results, according to Greg Dunn, executive vice president of YPartnership, a Florida-based advertising and public relations agency that conducted the traveler survey.
Results were based on input of a little more than 2,500 active leisure travelers — those who had taken at least one active leisure trip in the previous year, according to a Jan. 13 RV Business press release.
The 2010 survey focused on households of $50,000-plus annual income — the median income for the majority of U.S. active leisure travelers, according to Dunn.
The active leisure travelers surveyed constituted for 55 percent of the total U.S. population, with the 66 percent interested in visiting a national park being made up of mostly Caucasian males, 56 percent male and 82 percent Caucasian, versus 3 percent African American, he said.
Travelers interested in visiting parks, Florida and California picked top destinations, while 33 percent reported an interest in traveling internationally. According to the study, 81 percent reported planning a vacation around a life event, such as a birthday, anniversary or retirement.
About 70 people attended the Park Visitor Research Summit, including representatives of the National Park Service, universities and colleges, concessions companies, park-related businesses, state tourism agencies and nonprofit organizations working with national parks to serve visitors.
Yosemite National Park is seeing an increase in overall visitors as well as more local visitors, according to spokeswoman Kari Cobb.
“National parks are cheap to get into, and a good place to bring the family,” Cobb said. “It’s one of those things people are thinking about more than in previous years.”
According to Dunn, the serenity, beauty and overall safety of national parks appealed to the majority of active leisure travelers. About 80 percent of travelers reported being happier than they were 10 years ago in light of economic adversity prompting a shift in priorities, Dunn said.
“People are becoming more resourceful and frugal in shopping and travel,” Dunn said. “Now frugal is chic-er.”
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Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties