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Contact Steven McQuinn

Park.Net Marketing Manager

National Camping Reservation
Call Center Expects Opening Crush

When you call to make a reservation, the last thing you want to hear is a busy signal.

You've hit redial again and again. Still can't connect. Will there be any campsites to choose from by the time you get through?

The answer is Yes, if you are calling 1-877-444-6777, the toll free number for the National Recreation Reservation Service™ (NRRS). There will be thousands of campsites available starting October 15 when the service activates, and more select sites will be added to the inventory in the months to come.

As many callers have discovered, just be persistent. The initial flood of inquiries will subside.

Folks who have sought tickets to a Garth Brooks concert know that anxious feeling when the line is always busy. Callers seeking reservations for a California, New York, or Texas state park campground during the opening week of service or a popular holiday experience similar situations.

The crunch owes to a limited resource in great demand. But it also can be compounded by customers who call too soon.

Two federal agencies, the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have cooperated to place select campgrounds nationwide with the NRRS inventory. Individual campsites will come available 240 days before occupancy, group campsites 360 days ahead.

That means callers from all over the country this October will be seeking camping reservations for one of the most popular camping holidays of the year: Memorial Day weekend, 1999.

But it also means that anyone wishing an Independence Day camping holiday starting the Thursday preceding the 4th of July weekend should call no sooner than November 3rd, 240 days in advance of arrival.

John Weaver, Vice President of Operations for Park.Net, the NRRS service provider, has brought camping reservation call centers on line for the three largest state park systems in the country: Texas, New York and California. He will be at the helm when the interagency national service initiates.

"The flood of calls at 'Go Live' and major holidays is part of the business," says Weaver. "This temporary demand can be overwhelming. However, we will combat it by expanding the call center hours, reducing the number of unnecessary calls, and speeding up the transaction time so more calls can be processed."

When he was bringing the Texas reservation service on line Weaver watched in awe as calls for a single test state park blew out telephone connections in Texas and surrounding states.

"The AT&T people said the only other time they had seen such volume was when tickets went on sale for a Garth Brooks concert in Dallas."

The temporary stress is worth enduring, according to the participating agencies, because the NRRS creates significant value for the camping customer.

Jack Ardner, the NRRS Interagency Program Manager, has seen the dream of a National Recreation Reservation Service™ become a reality, in good part because of the enthusiastic support of Forest Service and Army Corps leadership. The Forest Service has experience with national reservations, while the program is new for most of the Corps.

"This level of Interagency cooperation is really unprecedented," says Ardner, "and the driving force behind it is the prospect for improved service to the customer."

"The customer benefits from having a service as close as the phone. No more long trips from home only to find a campground that is full," Ardner adds.

With a reservation service, even when a requested campground is completely booked, reservation agents will utilize their database to find alternative areas with vacancies, Ardner points out.

But first, the agencies will have to weather the inevitable tidal wave of initial interest.

With a little preliminary planning, callers can minimize unnecessary waiting. Here are some helpful hints:

First, make sure the date you want to camp has come available. The 240 day advance window for individual sites means that when the NRRS debuts in mid-October, summertime availability will extend only through Memorial Day to mid-June, 1999. Someone wanting to arrive the Friday of 4th of July weekend should call no sooner than November 4th. No point in battling busy signals for a date that is not yet open. Just mark on your calendar the date when the reservation window opens for your date of arrival, and call at that time.

Second, make sure the facility where you wish to camp has been included in the NRRS inventory. Starting October 13, the initial offering of select Forest Service and Corps of Engineers sites will be posted at the NRRS web site, New campground inventory will roll into the program every Wednesday thereafter, so it pays to bookmark the web site and return frequently. By checking on the web first, you may save yourself a long wait on the phone during the start-up period.

Third, research and prepare all your reservation information ahead of time for a smooth, quick transaction. You can make up to four reservations at one location per call, so be prepared to identify the desired campgrounds. Also, have your credit card number available, and the specific site type you need for your camping vehicles. The reservation agent will step you through the process quickly.

Fourth, be sure you can identify the campground or facility you want to reserve by exact name, agency and location. Many campgrounds in different locations have the same name, or names that sound very similar. The reservation process can go much faster if you can also specify the National Forest or Corps of Engineers project where the campsite you want is located.

Fifth, remember that on November 16, customers will be able to make NRRS camping reservations over the Internet on the web site. If you are planning on taking your summer camping vacation after mid-July, you will be able to reserve your sites quickly and efficiently via the Internet.

"The Internet holds tremendous potential for combining reservation capability with trip planning information," says Weaver. "There will always be people who wish to talk to a live agent, but many will prefer the web for making reservations because it will allow them to search for the perfect campsite at their own leisure, using the same database as the call center."

By next spring, prospective campers with the NRRS will have available to them approximately 40,000 reservable facilities in two thousand field locations nationwide. The facilities include campsites, group picnic areas, Forest Service lookouts, and cabins.



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