Plastic meets the great outdoors
One type of business that has effectively implemented
gift cards is state and national parks. A number
of state parks now offer gift cards that can be
used for campground fees, accommodations in lodges,
concessions or park admission. Even national parks
such as Yosemite and Glacier National Park offer
gift certificates that can be purchased online.
"We've been doing gift certificates for about seven years," says Patrice "Sissie" Summers, a spokeswoman for West Virginia State Parks & Forests. "The gift certificates had a two-year limit on them. Then the West Virginia legislature changed the law, so that gift cards can't expire." West Virginia State Parks & Forests has been selling gift cards for three years, and expects to take in nearly $100,000 this year.
With gift certificates, the parks
could not reissue a certificate for the unused
portion of the total value, leading to frustration
for the certificate holder and the state, Summers
explains. "Now we can go to the virtual terminal
to check balance, add value and track cards when
the holder has the card number available." Switching
to gift cards reduced "confusion for our staff
accepting the card use -- and the biggie -- cardholders
could spend every last penny of value on the card."
"We sell most of our cards via the
Internet," says Summers, and the state sells many
more gift cards than they do certificates.
In addition to West Virginia, the states that sell parks gift cards are Ohio State Parks, Alabama State Parks (purchase in parks or via toll-free number), and the New York State Parks' golf gift card.
The "Unbridled Spirit" gift card
sold through the Kentucky
State Parks can be used at multiple places
in the state, including historical sites, Kentucky
Horse Park, the Kentucky Artisan Center and, of
course, the state parks.
"We knew that gift cards
were growing in popularity and we wanted to tap
into that market," says Chris Gilligan, a spokesman
for Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, which oversees
the various organizations where the card can be
used. Introduced in fall 2006, the multiagency
gift card did $556,000 in sales during its first
year, a 35 percent increase over the previous
year when a state parks-only gift certificate
was sold. "We are the first state to have a statewide
gift card, and it's good to be ahead of the curve,"
Gilligan says, adding that Kentucky is considering
expanding the use of the gift card in the state,
but "right now we're going to walk before we run."
The Unbridled Spirit card has no fees and never
Massachusetts offers a "ParksPass" gift card through its Department of Conservation and Recreation that pays for annual admission and parking for all its parks except certain beaches.
Many other state parks offer gift certificates for use in their parks.