National parks have been interwoven with tourism from the earliest days of the National Park Service. Railroads developed resorts at natural wonders and scenic attractions before parks were established. The lure of both natural and cultural areas as magnets for tourism and related economic activity has been understood and capitalized on by many interests.
Travel and tourism is the number one or two industry in most states and will soon be the leading industry worldwide. Tourism industry in the U.S. is over half-trillion dollars-a-year that employs more than 15.5 million people directly and indirectly. Many national parks are icons that are on "must see" lists for domestic and international travelers. International travel is this country's largest export earner in the "services" category.
The challenge for NPS is to effectively work with tourism interests in a manner that provides quality and informative visitor experiences while preserving park values and resources.
NPS tourism policies are covered in Director's Order 17.