Will Oprah Ignite Significant Growth in National Park Tourism?


Oprah Winfrey, one of the most powerful people in the world, just recently made her first trip to a national park< Yosemite National Park in California (as you’ve probably heard by now). The interesting thing is, being an African-American, it is not at all unusual that Oprah had never visited a national park until this year. For whatever reasons, very few African-Americans ever visit a national park. The hope now is that a lot more will be interested and inspired to do so, due to the “Oprah factor” — more on that via ABC30.com:

Since Oprah and Gayle pulled out of Yosemite National Park … park rangers have been excited to see how her visit will ignite interest among a new group of people who are missing out on the national park experience.

Ranger Shelton Johnson said, “For someone of her stature, who could stay at the Ahwahnee or anywhere she wants to. To have her actually setting up a pop up trailer, sitting around the fire, roasting smores, just like so many people have done for generations, it was a very powerful thing to actually see her do that.”

Shelton Johnson is the longtime park ranger who convinced Oprah to make the trip. He’s been writing to her for years. He says African Americans are almost absent from national parks.

“What she is essentially saying is for me, if I can do this, you can do this as well,” said Johnson. “And there’s so many African Americans that for whatever reason have not considered the national park that is something that would be good for them and their families.”

Already another ranger has started hearing camper comments about what’s being referred to as, “the Oprah factor.”

Will Oprah’s visit to Yosemite spur a change in social patterns? We’ll see.

The first big opportunity for folks to go visit a national park is this coming Thursday, November 11. This is Veterans Day and admission to all national parks is free. If you’re inspired by Oprah’s recent trip, go visit your nearest national park (or the one you most want to go to)!

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Photo Credit: Alan Light via flickr (CC license)

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