Yosemite demand leads to scalping online
Tickets to a popular rock concert or sporting event might be what most scalpers go after to make a profit, however, in recent weeks, scalpers have caught on to a new attraction: camping sites at Yosemite National Park.
Campsite reservations and permits to climb the park’s popular Half Dome are being resold on online sites such as ebay.com and craigslist.com for five times their face value or more.
“We understand that there’s not enough supply to meet the demand, but this is just unfair,” said Scott Gediman chief of Media and External Relations for Yosemite.
|Click on the video at the right to view an audio slideshow discussing campsite and climbing permits scalping at Yosemite National Park narrated and prepared by writer Carmen Rodriguez.|
According to the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, Yosemite receives about 3.3 million visitors annually, 90 percent of which stay at the valley where the campgrounds reside. Ranked at the top of the nation’s most-visited national parks, Yosemite campground site reservations have been known to sell out within minutes of going on sale and selling out for up to five months at a time.
The park charges a $20 entrance fee and campground sites cost and additional $20 a night. Scalpers on ebay.com and craigslist.com have sold campground reservations for up to $150 a night.
The park’s permits to climb Half Dome are free at the park with a charge of $1.50 for handling fees. Once sold out, visitors can find them online for up to $100.
“What amazes me the most is that people are paying all this money and all you’re getting is a piece of dirt and a grill, for the same amount, or maybe less, we have very nice hotels,” said Gediman, who has worked at the park for 15 years.
Campground reservations and Half Dome permits are available through reserveamerica.com, an independent contractor that works closely with the National Park Service to offer visitors online ticket sales and acquisition of permits in advance.
Gediman confirmed that these reservations and permits do state that they are non-transferrable, making scalping a clear infringement against reserveamerica.com’s policy.
|At left, Yosemite Falls at Yosemite National Park. Next, signs warn campers about risks in Yosemite Valley campgrounds. Last, bicyclists enjoy a recent fall day in Yosemite Valley (Photos by Bruce Garrison).|
In the past, visitors who wished to hike up Half Dome would be able to obtain a permit from the park on a first-come, first-serve basis until this year, when demand became too high and began posing safety issues for hikers.
As a response, the park began requiring permits on weekends. Soon after, demand for permits to climb the iconic Half Dome skyrocketed and the park was forced to require visitors to obtain permits any time they wanted to climb.
Though Gediman estimated that only about two to three percent of the park’s revenue comes from campground reservation sales, he said that the funds mostly go towards maintenance costs and that Yosemite does not rely heavily on these monies.
“This is something that’s been going on and we don’t perceive it as ethical and it should be stopped,” said Gerry Gaumer, deputy chief spokesperson for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
Gaumer stated that solicitors are still investigating and figuring out the details of how to deal with this situation correctly, but could not comment any further.
“We are aware that this problem has existed for a while now, but now it’s gotten more widespread, we feel that people have gotten into the system, we don’t know…we’re not naïve enough to think we can stop it…we’re trying to look at the big picture and get to the root of the problem,” said Gediman.
Yosemite rangers and officials are working closely with attorneys at the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.
Though it is not clear yet whether scalpers can face prosecution or fines park rangers have begun to take matters into their own hands by cracking down on them. Park officials have contacted ebay.com and asked webmasters to flag and prohibit these sales.
Gediman said these companies have been very cooperative, but that people still find loopholes and ways around these preventive measures. By wording their sales creatively, like selling the “Yosemite Experience” instead of the more direct “Yosemite Campgrounds” or “Half Dome Permits” scalpers can avoid being flagged. While ebay has made an initiative to cooperate, craigslist is not as regulated and difficult to control.
Rangers at Yosemite first began to note this scalping problem when visitors began commenting that they got their reservations from scalpers online and paid up to five times as much as they were worth. It wasn’t long before rangers and park officials checked it out for themselves.
Surprisingly enough, Yosemite is the only national park that has had this problem. Nothing remotely similar to scalping turned up when searching ebay and craigslist for any the top 10 most visited national parks.
Some visitors are upset that people are exploiting the park while others don’t mind.
“People are really willing to pay, they just really want to go camping, which is the weird thing, I love to go camping, but I certainly wouldn’t pay that,” said Gediman.
Yosemite National Park officials and rangers are currently brainstorming ways to control the situation and are considering asking to see identification documents at check-in to make sure it matches reservations as well as other preventive measures.
“The system is not intended for this [scalping] to happen. It’s unethical and we’d prefer it not happening,” said Gaumer.
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