GANYC CONDEMNS NEW NATIONAL PARK SERVICE RULES BANNING GUIDED TOURS AT STATUE OF LIBERTY & ELLIS ISLAND
New rules would cost tour guides $2 million in annual income and 100+ jobs, plus negatively impact the visitor experience and visitor safety at these two iconic venues
May 1, 2019
The Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) announced today that it strongly condemns new regulations set by the National Park Service (NPS) that would ban commercial guided tours from within the Statue of Liberty Pedestal, the Statue of Liberty Museum, and the National Museum of Immigration at Ellis Island effective May 16, 2019. The new rules will cost tour guides as much as $2 million in income and 100+ jobs in the first year they go into effect, and will negatively impact the visitor experience and the safety and security of all who visit these two visible, iconic landmarks. GANYC urges NPS to reconsider these new policies.
NPS and its partner Statue Cruises developed these new rules unilaterally without consulting any travel and tourism experts, including tour operators, tour guides, and tourism associations like GANYC, the association of professional tour guides in New York City. NPS announced the new regulations in January 2019 under the guise of reducing overcrowding, improving the visitor experience and providing better security for all visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but GANYC believes these new policies will have the exact opposite effect. The rules were to go into effect February 1, but GANYC convinced NPS to delay their implementation until May.
“This is a complete overreaction by the National Parks Service to a minor problem, for which myriad better solutions could have been found if NPS had consulted with GANYC and other travel and tourism experts,” said Michael Morgenthal, GANYC Secretary and chair of its Industry Relations Committee. “Instead, by unilaterally imposing these new regulations, NPS will usher in a whole new wave of problems it either doesn’t care about, or is choosing to ignore. NPS resources, already stretched to the limit, will be overwhelmed when these new rules go into place, and this will greatly degrade the visitor experience to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as the safety and security of all who come to the islands.”
In lieu of commercial guided tours, NPS states that visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can join NPS-led tours or use the audio guides that are included in their ticket cost. However, NPS Park Rangers lead one tour per hour on each island, and do not have the staff to accommodate the increased volume should tour guides recommend that visitors join the NPS-led tours. GANYC estimates that during the busiest tourist season, there are as many as 50 guided tours to the islands each day with with upwards of 1000 guests. These islands receive 25,000-plus visitors on its busiest days.
In addition, while the audio guide at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island offer tours in 12 languages, GANYC guides conduct tours in at least 28 languages, meaning that thousands of annual visitors to the islands will not receive additional information and context at these venues. In 2017, 13.1 million visitors from 196 different countries came to New York City from outside the USA according to NYC & Company.
The new rules also will remove a crucial layer of security, as professional tour guides are trained to keep their eyes open for potential security breaches and efforts to damage or destroy NPS property. In addition, tour guides are trained to move large groups of people quickly and effectively, which has aided in past evacuations of Liberty and Ellis Islands when they have been necessary, especially when NPS staff and U.S. Park Police could not be found.
“We offered our expertise to NPS to find a solution, other than an outright ban, for this issue,” stated GANYC President Michael Dillinger. “We wanted to partner with NPS, as our goals are the same -- showcasing these wonderful venues to as many visitors as possible. We hoped NPS would be open to dialogue and negotiation, but all we received was a cursory meeting with no real consideration of our proposals. All other travel and tourism experts we consulted on this issue were met with a similar level of indifference by NPS.”
Since January 2019, GANYC has made several proposals to NPS that would allow working tour guides to continue to provide guided tours inside these venues. To date, NPS has not responded to any of the proposals, which include:
- A proposed Code of Conduct for all licensed New York City tour guides who give tours at these venues. This includes directives on how and where guides can deliver tours so as to minimally impact other visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as to not interfere with NPS programs.
- A certification program that would train guides on best practices and depth of knowledge for giving tours at these venues. This would be modeled on an already existing certification program that NPS administers at the Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as in other tourist attractions such as the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
“The irony is that NPS is claiming that commercial guided tours are causing overcrowding in a venue like Ellis Island, which was designed to manage thousands of people a day when it operated as an immigration facility -- it just doesn’t make any sense,” Morgenthal added. “New York’s professional tour guides take great pride in showcasing our city’s diversity and inclusiveness -- that story begins at Ellis Island. These new rules will limit visitors’ understanding of the issue of immigration, and the great and lasting contributions immigrants have made to the history and fabric of New York and the United States. Considering the current political climate both in the U.S. and abroad, GANYC believes that the NPS should be doing everything it can to promote a better understanding of immigration issues, not limiting access to these ideas and stories.”
For more information, contact:
Michael Morgenthal, GANYC Secretary & Chair, Industry Relations Committee