The following story on the matter was published in the 2014 November-December American Recreation Coalition Newsletter:
As the primary tool for booking campsites on federal lands, www.recreation.gov plays an important part in connecting Americans with their public lands. The website unified separate reservation programs serving federal lands and has substantially beefed up its role as a source of information about outdoors fun. New technologies and new insights about serving outdoors enthusiasts are being considered as the federal agencies prepare to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the next generation of the website.
The site allows users to book thousands of campsites, cabins, fire towers and more -- even the White House Easter Egg Roll, but many other activities key to visits to federal sites are not available on the site. These include rooms in national park lodges, lift tickets to ski resorts on national forests, lodging and tours linked to gateway communities and much more. In addition, operational restrictions on the current website operator, ARC-member Active Network, have limited outreach and promotion efforts. A growing number of interests are also calling for better access to www.recreation.gov by outside “booking engines” like Kayak and Hotwire, modeled after sales of hotel rooms and airline flights.
On November 13, the U.S. Forest Service – which manages Recreation.gov on behalf of all federal recreation providers – held an Industry Day at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado to discuss the digital future of the nation’s public lands. According to the event editorial produced by USFS, roughly six dozen representatives attended the session. As a result of the feedback received, the public comment period on a draft of the Request for Proposals has been extended to November 30. Another draft RFP will be submitted for public comment in early 2015 prior to the release of the final RFP.
ARC supports several goals for www.recreation.gov, including: allowing the website to be nimble and responsive to changes in technology over the next decade; facilitating interaction between this website and the websites of state tourism agencies, gateway communities, airlines and other major players in domestic and international tourism promotion; and adding important features such as trip reports and peer-to-peer sharing.
Ben D. Nasta, Director of Communications
American Recreation Coalition