Youth visitors in national parks: Case studies of visitor age trends in Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks

Authors: Michael Pretes*, University of North Alabama, John Crowell, University of North Alabama
Topics: Transportation Geography, Recreational and Sport Geography, Tourism Geography
Keywords: national parks, millennial generation, visitors, tourism, Olympic, Mount Rainier
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Iris, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recent media reports have suggested that members of the Millennial Generation (those born between 1981 and 1997) and Generation Z (those born after 1997) are less inclined to visit national parks, compared to older generations. We used three methods to examine the validity of these media statements: Qualtrics-based social media surveys (on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), face to face semi-structured interviews with park rangers and local business owners at and near two national parks—Mount Rainier and Olympic, both in Washington State—and on-site observations and counting of visitors at visitor centers and on trails in the same two national parks. We compared these observations with the limited historical data on visitor ages available from the National Park Service. Our initial results suggest that media reports are overstated, and that the number of both Millennial Generation and Generation Z members visiting national parks is at least stable and perhaps even increasing. A possible explanation for divergent results is that younger people may be accessing park information through online and social media sources, and therefore bypassing visitor centers and direct contact with park rangers.

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