testing: Yellowstone News | Xanterra Warns Visitors About Reservations

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January 01st, 2008

With planning for summer vacations underway, the operator of lodging in several national parks is suggesting consumers read the fine print when dealing with Internet reservations services. Many national park visitors will be paying unnecessary service charges or will unknowingly reserve rooms outside the parks this summer, according to Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Travelers who perform an Internet search 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 as 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.

Xanterra offers free online reservations services at www.xanterra.com or each property Web site for all of the national parks and resorts it operates. Xanterra’s reservations employees are also available to assist and advise travelers who wish to make their arrangements by phone.

In addition to charging non-refundable fees, some Internet reservations services also include unreliable or misleading information about national parks and lodges. For example, one Web site defines an “in-park lodge” as being located “within one mile” of the park. Another says that rooms in Yellowstone are booked “one year in advance and are hard to get into.” While Xanterra accepts reservations a year in advance in Yellowstone, the rooms do not immediately sell out. That same site does refer people to Xanterra for in-park reservations, but it only provides a mailing address instead of the reservations phone number or Web site.

Most of the reservations services sites take 24 hours to confirm a room booking. In fact, that is the time Web site operators allow to do for travelers what they can do for themselves: call Xanterra for an immediate room booking.

A common complaint Xanterra has received is that guests who must change their plans forfeit the reservations fees collected by reservations services. Xanterra can cancel rooms, but it can do nothing about the extra fees charged by the reservations services. Many guests do not realize they have been dealing with a third party until they try to collect the refund.

Xanterra receives the same room revenue whether the rooms are booked by the consumer or a reservations services company, so there is no incentive for Xanterra to do business with these companies.

“Booking online through a Xanterra Web site is a terrific way to reserve the room you want, and unlike Internet reservations services, most of Xanterra’s room inventory is reflected online,” said Judi Lages, vice president of sales & marketing for Xanterra. “Plus, the sites offer a wealth of information on lodges, parks, activities and prices, so travelers have plenty of information to make good decisions.”

Lages also advised travelers to consider alternate dates if preferred dates are not available. “Xanterra occasionally receives last-minute cancellations or arrival and departure changes, so travelers should consider bookmarking the Web site so they can easily come back to check the current availability,” she said.

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 Web site, 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.
  • Watch for oversimplified pricing structures. One reservations provider books “premium” and “economy” rooms in Yellowstone National Park. With nine lodges and more than 2,000 rooms within Yellowstone, room offerings are extensive and pricing is varied. A two-tiered pricing structure is not adequate to explain the park’s offerings.
  • 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.

To book a room at a Xanterra-operated property, go to www.xanterra.com and follow the links to the desired destination. The company’s Web site – www.xanterra.com – features an easy-to-use online booking option. Individual park properties have their own Web sites as well as reservations telephone numbers. Web sites include www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com, www.grandcanyonlodges.com, www.furnacecreekresort.com, www.brycecanyonlodge.com, www.zionlodge.com, www.grandcanyonnorthrim.com, www.craterlakelodges.com and www.stovepipewells.com.

Travelers can also call one of the company’s reservations phone numbers: 888-297-2757 or 303-297-2757 for all but the lodges in Yellowstone, Crater Lake and Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. Reservations for lodges in Yellowstone can be made by calling 307-344-7311; in Crater Lake National Park at 541-830-8700; and Stovepipe Wells at 760-786-2387.