The contract to raise commercial river trips through the Grand Canyon was canceled by The National Parks Service. The cancelation was in response to public outcry over the high franchise fees. The cancelation comes after months of debate over the proposed 16 commercial contracts.
The proposal hiked the ten-month contract fee up significantly. Instead of ranging from four and eighteen percent, the new contract ranged to between five and over twenty-two percent. This would seriously damage profit margins for local businesses, that already have stringent rules regarding the Grand Canyon.
Each of the rafting adventures starts at Lees Ferry. This is close to the Arizona and Utah border. There are varying lengths in each of the trips, but some run 280 miles through the canyon to Lake Mead. Therefore, the trips are not exactly a quick tour. Days at a time can be spent rafting the Grand Canyon and sleeping on the beaches along the banks. For many people, this is an experience they have waited their entire life to pursue.
The trips include food, bedding, and other essential supplies for rafting. Depending on the length of the trip and the vessel, the per person price ranges from one to six-thousand dollars. In 2016, The Park Service collected over $5.3 million in franchise fees from commercial trips alone.
Annually, over 19,000 people raft the waters of the Grand Canyon, with people sometimes waiting years to procure their spot. Each year, guided tours sell out and others wait patiently for the lottery to award them a self-guided permit.
Still, current contract holders claimed the fee increase would cripple their business. Rafting owners in Flagstaff and Arizona cited the recent minimum wage increase as another factor. Some business owners claimed that the proposed contract would force them to price their product too high to be affordable.
It was due to this feedback that The National Park Service decided to extend the current contracts into 2019. This allows for the new contract to be revised and presented again next year. Hopefully, the new contract will reflect the feedback of their current business owners help rafters keep their experiences reasonably priced.