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Industry Briefs
National Parks Offer Alluring New Experiences For Diverse Visitors

Almost 300 million domestic and foreign travelers flock to our National Parks each year to enjoy their spectacular beauty, cultural history, and the chance to ‘get away from it all.’ Whether they’re standing in awe before the Grand Canyon in Arizona or enjoying the peaceful views in Everglades National Park, Florida, people connect with something larger than themselves and leave refreshed and replenished.

But few of the visitors to national parks are Americans of color. According to the National Park Service, Black visitors remain in the single digits, and Hispanic visitors have just broken double digits at around 11 percent, compared with White Americans using the parks at above 70%.

This creates an incredible opportunity for tourism professionals to offer a new kind of experience to Americans of color, says Audrey Peterman. The author of “Our True Nature: Finding a Zest for Life in the National Park System,” Peterman and her husband Frank have been working for years to publicize the parks to urban populations.

“We ‘discovered’ the national parks on a road trip around the country in 1995, and realized that there was less than a handful of people who looked like us in 14 national parks we visited from coast to coast,” says Mrs. Peterman. “We resolved to do everything we could to make our fellow citizens aware of these beautiful, natural, protected places that they can enjoy at low cost and in safety.”

The Petermans’ work for close to two decades has resulted in a host of publicity about the parks in media as diverse as MSNBC TV, A udubon magazine, and the Westside Gazette Black-focused weekly newspaper. They’ve served on the boards of national organizations that support the parks, and led multiple trips to the parks.

Their second book, “Our True Nature” is a practical travel guide that emphasizes the rich cultural heritage protected in our country and the places where every ethnic group can take pride in the contributions made by their ancestors. As helpful for the individual tourist as for the travel professional, the book describes 60 units of the Park System from Alaska to Florida, telling where they are, how to get there, where to stay and what to do. It includes more than 120 dazzling color photographs.

The book comes at the same time that the Obama campaign has placed the National Parks at the center of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy. Concurrently, the National Park Service is gearing up for its Centennial Celebration in August 2016, in a far more racially inclusive America than at its inception in 1916. The Park Service’s non-profit arm, the National Park Foundation recently contracted with GREY ad agency to develop a Centennial Campaign promoting the national parks.

“It feels like everything is finally coming together for Americans of color to be introduced to the vast treasury that we all own together in the National Park System,” says Mrs. Peterman. “’Our True Natur’ will give people a leg up so they don’t have to start from scratch.”

With unique expertise in the park system and more than 160 units under their belt (there’s close to 400 units in the system!) the Petermans say they’re eager to help provide guidance in developing experiences to stimulate and satisfy the interests of an increasingly diverse market.

(“Our True Nature” and the Petermans’ first book, “Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care” are available at and For Consulting Services and Speaking Engagements, contact
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