Crisis Management For Local Tourism
On Aug. 17, the devastating RIM fire began and although it is no longer a threat to people or structures, it continues to burn. On October 1, Congress and the President were unable to compromise on the continuing resolution to fund the Federal Government leading to a shutdown of non-essential government services which includes Yosemite National Park…our #1 tourism attraction.
In both cases, the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau has taken aggressive action to get the word out accurately about what’s open and closed. Once again, social media has been both a help and a hindrance in presenting the actual situation. If you’ve read about closures, here are the facts!
The Park will close all visitor centers, contact stations and public facilities. All Ranger-led programs such as campfire talks, junior ranger programs, etc. are canceled. Park campgrounds and lodging facilities are also closed. All wilderness areas and trails are closed to hiking and backpacking even if wilderness permits were previously issued.
All through roads (Highway 120, 41 and 140) will remain open! Visitors traveling these roads will not be allowed to stop for recreational activities as all facilities will be closed. All other (non-through) roads will be closed. The open through roads still allow visitor to see many of the iconic sites while passing through the Park.
Our downtown Vacation Station has received feedback from travelers who assumed the Park was closed and chose to drive over Sonora Pass (Highway 108) instead who had nothing but positive comments about what a beautiful ride it is – one they might not have seen otherwise.
It’s important to remember areas outside the Park are not affected and the scenery doesn’t change at the Park Boundary. Visitors can still find great places to hike and explore nature, a wide range of lodging and dining facilities and the same kind of recreational opportunities along the Highway 120 and Highway 108 corridors.
In both crises, the Visitors Bureau has had the support of private and public agencies such as Visit California; the state’s official tourism web site, to get the information out to potential visitors and to media outlets throughout the country as well as internationally. It’s been our top priority since mid August.
You can help as well. As summer is our primary tourism period, these incidents have a major impact on local businesses that depend on summer visitors. I urge everyone to encourage friends and relatives to visit and to use social media to let the world know that Tuolumne County is open for business and is ready to roll out the welcome mat for all who choose to come here.