Oct 21 2013, 4:02am CDT | by PR.com
Las Vegas, NV, October 21, 2013 --(PR.com)-- Finally, after weeks of intense negotiations, the U.S. Congress has ended the federal shutdown, thus re-opening the government and fully funding the operation of Grand Canyon National Park.
The resolution means that visitors have full access to the Park, including hiking trails, campgrounds, public facilities, shuttle buses, bike rentals, lodging and dining.
"It's a huge relief," said Keith Kravitz, owner of GrandCanyon123.com, the leading provider of national park tours and information. "Many travelers had to cancel their plans due to the uncertainty, but that's behind us now."
The shutdown primarily affected the South Rim of the Park. The West Rim, by contrast, is not part of the National Park System and therefore wasn't impacted by the political situation.
"The West Rim is located on land owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe," Kravitz noted. "Thus, visitors in Las Vegas had a full menu of trips from which to choose. South Rim travelers, on the other hand, had to resort to trips that originated outside the Park, like helicopter and airplane tours."
With order restored, visitors are deluging local operators with requests for trips. "We welcome the business," Kravitz said. "At South Rim, we are seeing a run on the basic 50-minute helicopter ride. After that in terms of popularity is the airplane flight."
There are two kinds of helicopter tours at South Rim: the 30-minute and 50-minute tour. The shorter one goes from the South Rim to the North Rim and back, taking in the Dragoon Corridor on the return. The longer flight does the same thing except it flies to the eastern border, too. "Travelers who do the 50-minute flight will have seen up to 75 percent of the Park," noted Kravitz.
The 50-minute airplane tours flies the same route as the extended helicopter tour except at a higher elevation. "The airplane trip is an exceptional value," Kravitz said. "What really separates it from the helicopter ride is price. It's much, much cheaper."
Back in Las Vegas, tour operators have re-opened the 60-minute direct flight from Vegas to the South Rim, which was closed because it included a 2.5-hour bus tour inside the National Park. "This was really unfortunate," Kravitz said. "If there's one way to get to the SR from Vegas, it's the plane. Not offering it meant visitors had to rent cars and self drive or take a 5.5-hour bus tour."
The other tour most affected was the South Rim bus trip, one of Las Vegas' most popular day trips. It departs daily and includes free shuttle service to and from all Strip hotels, as well as lunch and all taxes and fees. "This tour is an extraordinary value," Kravitz said. "Families and large groups love it. Thankfully, it's back in the mix."
News that the federal government now backs that Park’s opening has put pressure on tour inventory, a situation travelers need to take into consideration as they research their trip options. "Book canyon tours at least a week in advance," he said. "Travelers doing same-day bookings aren't getting trips, and, if there is success, it's costing a fortune."
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