(Relaxnews) – As the US celebrates a record-breaking year for international tourism, senior administration officials are already planning how to attract more visitors to one thing their country has plenty of — natural beauty.Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country so large, the US boasts nearly 400 national park units and 556 national wildlife refuges, and in a statement this week Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar confirmed they would be stepping up efforts to attract visitors.
“A particular focus on strategies for increasing tourism and jobs is by promoting visits to our national treasures,” the men wrote in a blog post.
“From hunting, fishing, hiking, and learning about our nation’s incredible history and cultural heritage, public lands and water provide plenty of recreational opportunities that can attract travelers from around the country and the globe.”
America is currently in the midst of a concerted campaign to attract more international visitors, promoting visits to areas such as national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments, and other public lands and water.
Hundreds of millions of visitors already pour through the country’s national parks every year, spending over $12 billion, but a new task force set up by President Barack Obama plans to increase that even further, helping rural economies where parks have a big impact such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
According to 2010 figures, the most visited National Parks in the US were the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain — although visitors who can’t make up their mind about which one to visit got a helping hand this week, in the form of a website which displays them in a Google Streetmap-style interface.
Hikers from Nature Valley TrailView spent two months on the trails of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountain to capture over 300 miles (480 km) of trails, all accessible at http://www.naturevalleytrailview.com.
Administration officials will have been pleased with last year’s figures, which showed that foreign visitors than ever landed in the United States in 2011, spending more money than ever before on their visit.
A total of 62 million international visitors arrived, up 2.5 million (around four percent) on 2010, with visitors also spending more money than ever before.
Foreign tourists to the US shelled out a whopping $153 billion on travel and tourism-related expenditure, the Commerce Department said, which added up to an 8.1 percent jump when combined with the amount spent by domestic tourists.
The department has not given a reason for the rise in visitors, according to reports.