Grand Canyon Officials Indebted to Concessions Firm

The Grand Canyon is a wonderful place, and the adventure of seeing the canyon itself is only made better by the accommodating and comfortable lodging opportunities. Some say that staying at one of the famous Grand Canyon hotels and lodges is a quintessential part of the experience, and we can’t help but agree.

It’s a common misconception that all of the lodges, inn, and hotels in the area are family-owned and operated, but that’s not the entire truth. Many if not most establishments are supported and often staffed by larger companies, and while those companies do make a considerable amount of money operating within the park, the National Park Service and park officials are responsible for a share of development costs.

While this arrangement has proven beneficial in the past, aggressive development and a less favorable economy have left the National Park Service in crippling debt. Many individual parks are in debt, including…

– Grand Canyon National Park (Almost $100 million in debt)
– Grand Teton National Park (Over $57 million in debt)
– Glacier National Park (Approximately $22 million in debt)
– Yellowstone National Park ($21.5 million in debt)

While not all of these sums are not overdue or owed immediately, that will change as contracts expire and more parks begin to seek new amenity services. The Grand Canyon National Park was recently forced to extend their existing contract due to a stagnant bidding period. Simply put, no one wants to run lodging and concessions in the park because the costs are too high. The National Park Service tried to make the bidding war a little more active by drawing money from other parks, Washington, and the Grand Canyon National Park itself to subsidize some of the costs owed, but it did little to help.

While it’s undetermined how this will affect the service as a whole, it could prove detrimental to the parks that contributed to the “bailout”. The Grand Canyon has even gone as far as to nearly halve its franchise fee from 14% to 8% to lower operating costs further, but still can’t find any takers.

Derrick Crandall, counselor to the National Park Hospitality Association and representative of park concessionaires, provided an inside look into why companies are no longer attracted to the once lucrative Grand Canyon job. “”Has anybody asked what will happen now that the franchise fee has gone from 14 percent to 8 percent in terms of the pace at which the repayments will be made to the Statue of Liberty and to Alcatraz and to all the rest of the donating parks?”

The average Grand Canyon lodge has been around for quite some time, and so have the policies currently in place. In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Michael F. Bennett explain that, “The system laid out in the National Park Omnibus Management Act (of 1998) has worked, with varying degrees of success. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly clear that competition in the bidding process and the ability of the Park Service to attract new bidders have both significantly diminished.”

We’re interested in hearing where you stand on these issues. What move should the service take next? Is another subsidization the answer, or is a policy reform in order? Let us know in the comments section below!