The National Park Service announced it would ban commercial tours inside the Statue of Liberty as a “necessary response” to overcrowding. 

Commercial guided tours will not be permitted inside the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island or the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, which is part of the national monument overseen by NPS. They’ll also be banned from Lady Liberty’s sixth-floor pedestal observation level, which includes the current museum and panoramic views of Ellis Island, New York, New Jersey and the New York Harbor.

“Commercial guided tours add to the congestion in these identified areas and prevent the free flow of visitor movement and impact public programs and the visitor experience,” Jerry Willis, spokesman for NPS, said in a statement. “The restrictions were put in place as a necessary response to the 600% increase in commercial tours over the last 10 years. This massive increase has resulted in the need to alleviate the mounting overcrowding and conflicts with National Park Service programming and operations.”

The statue sees more than 4.3 million visitors annually, and Ellis Island’s immigration museum gets more than 3 million visitors each year, according to the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation. 

The Statue of Liberty is an important symbol of freedom for many Americans. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The tour restrictions go into effect May 16, the same day a new 26,000-square-foot museum opens alongside the statue on Liberty Island. The Statue of Liberty website says the new museum “will allow millions more visitors to enjoy the Statue of Liberty experience.”

Willis stressed that ticketed visitors will be allowed to enjoy the statue museum, which is free with the purchase of a ferry ticket to visit Liberty and Ellis islands; the restrictions are on conducting guided tours in the designated inside spaces. 

And during the colder months from November to March and during inclement weather, commercial tour guides will be allowed to do a brief site orientation for their groups on the first floor of the Ellis Island immigration museum.

The Guides Association of New York City issued a statement saying the group “strongly condemns” the restrictions. 

“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,” Michael Morgenthal, GANYC Secretary and chair of its Industry Relations Committee, said in a statement. “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.”

NPS park rangers provide English-language guided tours throughout the day, and audio tours are available in 12 languages. GANYC asserts commercial guides conduct tours in at least 28 languages.

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