Approximately 400-425 companies annually provide a wide variety of commercial visitor services for visitors to Alaska’s 16 national park areas. The number of companies and volume of business activity varies by year but the trend is towards a modest increase, as tourism in Alaska expands. The National Park Service authorizes commercial visitor services under concession contracts and Commercial Use Authorizations. There are many distinctions between these two types of authorizations, but generally the NPS issues concession contracts when there is a need to limit the number of operators or construct facilities in park areas and a competitive system is employed to solicit proposals from private businesses. Commercial Use Authorizations are generally used when a service is appropriate for the park area, but there is no need to limit the number of service providers or construct facilities in park areas and therefore no need to employ a competitive system to award the authorization. Of the 400-425 companies mentioned above, approximately 100 are authorized under concession contracts and the remainder are authorized under Commercial Use Authorizations. Generally, engaging in or soliciting any business in a national park requires a contract or other written authorization from the NPS. See below for additional information and authorizations.