BISMARCK, ND – The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department saw increased visitation in 2020 with 1.29 million visitors to the state parks and continues to maintain high visitation this year. While COVID-19 had certainly prompted increased travel, results of surveys conducted by the Department show that increase was on top of an already loyal and growing visitor base to North Dakota’s state parks. When looking ahead to future travel, 74.6% of visitor survey respondents indicated that they plan to visit a North Dakota state park within the next 12 months. At the time of the survey, COVID-19 had little influence on respondents’ future plans with only 9.8% indicating their plans to visit were prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department fielded surveys between December 2020 – February 2021 to collect travel, attitudinal, and demographic information from North Dakota state park visitors and North American residents in key geographic markets. This information is critical to understanding how park properties can be maintained and improved to enhance the visitor experience and how the park properties affect local communities. The survey program included three separate surveys for visitors, non-visitors, and residents in communities near North Dakota state parks.
High customer satisfaction was reflected as visitors reported the quality of each park property as “good” or “very good,” and high visitor return rate was shown by 86.4% having visited a North Dakota state park property prior to their most recent trip.
Visitor surveys reflected an interest in camping, viewing natural scenery, sightseeing, driving for pleasure, walking/hiking, and viewing wildlife. While visitors expressed high interest in traditional park offerings, the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department recognizes the clear desire of visitors to also have easy access to the digital world while visiting its parks. 85.7% of visitor survey respondents would like to have internet / Wi-fi / LTE / 4G services available in the park, whether it be everywhere in the park or only in developed areas of the park.
“North Dakota Parks and Recreation will continue to work toward maintaining and improving amenities visitors are looking for,” stated Director Andrea Travnicek. “As visitation rates trend high, it will be important for our agency to continue to work with partners to secure resources for modern infrastructure to meet customer expectations and attract a strong workforce.”
The top five services of interest to non-visitor survey respondents included outdoor exhibits, visitor centers, self-guided tours, indoor exhibits, and gift shops. Among non-visitor survey respondents, the top three reasons for not visiting state parks more often were preferring to visit parks closer to home, not knowing what there is to do at North Dakota state parks, and the distance being too far from their homes.
“The Department plans to continue educating the public on park offerings, improving park signage for increased visibility, and building new and existing partnerships,” said Travnicek. “The recent launch of the North Dakota Passport program also gives visitors a comprehensive, easy-to-use guide to explore the state at their own pace.”
Results of the community survey reported that 72.6% of community survey respondents believe tourism generated by their local state park contributes to local economy. In addition, 94.6% of community survey respondents have visited their local state park property at least once in their lifetime.
The results of these surveys give the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department valuable data to continue adapting to evolving customer needs, serving a 21st century workforce, and supporting healthy, vibrant communities. For more information on survey results, visit parkrec.nd.gov/news.
Survey results available here.