State Parks Finding Ways to Close Winter Revenue Gaps

State parks around the country are finding new ways to bring people in over the winter. There are state parks all over the 50 states. In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, for example, there are more than 70 county parks, numerous nature preserves, and greenways, with trails within two state parks and hiking across the Chesapeake Bridge when the weather permits.

Winter weather in many states, however, doesn’t exactly bring “family trip to a state park” to mind, and the parks are feeling the absence of those visitors throughout the season. This leaves many of these parks and nature preserves to find new ways to bring people in.

Kentucky State Parks, for example, took advantage of the winter storm and offered special rates to any stranded travelers or anyone else needing shelter from the storm. As announced by Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland, lodge rooms will now be available for $49.95 per night at 16 different parks, and the rate will be available during any severe weather. Guests are asked to call in advance and should note that existing reservations and other packages are excluded from the offer, which is based on availability.

Washington State Parks are rolling out a comprehensive plan to drive their sales throughout the year as well. They are in need of decreasing high vacancy rates in order to get them out of a budgetary bind.

The state legislature has directed them to bring in more revenue in addition to relying less on the state general fund. The state parks are planning to eventually change their current reservation system in order to reflect the commercial lodging industry. This means consumers will be able to find last minute discounts, and measures to attract repeat consumers will be put in place.

Already, they have added dozens of new cabins to popular parks, and there are plans to bring even more.

“We’re trying to push the envelope on yurts and cabins for additional revenues,” said Mark O. Brown, secretary of the seven-member, governor-appointed Washington Parks and Recreation Commission. “We have a mandate from the governor to be more self-sufficient.”

These efforts are in response to a steep decrease in general funds to the parks from the state. Discover Pass sales have started to bridge the gap, but there is more work to be done.

The changes are outlined in a 23-page marketing report. Park officials say, “The ability to be competitive in the cabin market is critical. There are several competitors to choose from when planning a cabin rental, so the ability to capture the customer, create direct and useful information and communication, and stay competitive through promotions will be the focus.”

The report outlines other promotions, such as a loyalty program and other retention campaigns, in addition to off-season perks.

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