the Fine Print, Book Directly with Operators, Advises
Concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts
DENVER (March 23, 2005) -- Many national park visitors will be paying
more than necessary for a lodge room this summer, according to Xanterra
Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon
and other national parks.
Travelers who search on the Internet for national park lodging
information will find a long list of sites from which to choose. Some
of these sites link to Internet reservations services that charge a
non-refundable fee of as much of 12 percent of the total travel price
to book lodging within a park. These reservations fees are unnecessary
and can be avoided if travelers book directly with concessioners like
Xanterra offers free online reservations services at www.xanterra.com
for all of the national parks and resorts it operates. Xanterra's
reservations employees are available to assist and advise travelers who
wish to make their arrangements by phone.
"Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware - is becoming increasingly sage
advice for travelers," said Judi Lages, vice president of sales and
marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts. "While they may not be
breaking any laws, these services can be misleading and costly to
In addition to the unnecessary fees, Xanterra cites these other
"We are concerned about these companies because our guests feel duped
when they find out they are paying unnecessary fees," said Lages.
"While we always try to assist our customers and make adjustments if we
can, we cannot refund the fees collected by these companies. It is a
frustrating situation, and it is completely avoidable."
Some services lead callers to believe in-park lodging is sold out when
rooms are actually available.
There can be a high incidence of mistakes in the reservations simply
because the agents do not know the parks and lodging options as well as
the agents working for the authorized concessioner.
It is not always readily clear if lodging is inside a park or in a
Travelers who must change or cancel their travel plans forfeit these
Xanterra receives the same room revenue whether the rooms are booked by
Xanterra or a reservations services company, so there is no incentive
for Xanterra to do business with these companies. Internet
services companies operate by taking travelers' contact, credit card
and travel preference information over the phone or Internet. These
companies must still call Xanterra to actually book the rooms or
Here are several ways to distinguish between authorized concessioners
and other Internet booking services:
Look for language that identifies the operator of the site as the
"authorized provider of concession services" within a park. Often, a
single concessioner operates lodging within a given national park. The
National Park Service website, www.nps.gov, lists authorized
concessioners at every national park.
Watch out for claims about occupancy. Reservations services may try to
paint a bleak picture of room availability inside the park in order to
get customers to book outside the park and generate a higher fee for
the reservations service. For example, one reservations service implies
all lodging in Yellowstone is sold out one year in advance. In fact,
reservations for lodges are accepted a year in advance, but the hotels
do not sell out at that time.
Beware of services that claim access to rooms "even when the park is
sold out." Internet reservations services do not hold room blocks. The
Xanterra website lists availability of rooms on any given date.
Beware of misleading or "official-looking" images. Some sites
prominently post a picture of a national park sign with the official
National Park Service logo. To a casual or inattentive website user,
the use of the image might appear to translate to "official"
endorsement from the National Park Service.
Beware of sites that intersperse in-park lodging with those outside of
the park. Many lodges in national park gateway communities are named
after nearby parks and appear to be within the park boundaries. Also,
some reservations companies offer to book lodging "at" a park but not
"in" a park.
Although some of these Internet reservations services companies call
themselves travel agencies, that claim is misleading. Travel agents
generally collect a commission to book accommodations and then act as
middlemen if necessary between the traveler and travel provider. The
Internet reservations services merely make the reservation for a