National Park Service Reissues Glacier Bay Park Lodging Concession Prospectus With Incentives

Alternate Text
Lodge in search of a manager.

The National Park Service recently issued a modified concession prospectus for Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

The contract covers ten years of lodging, tour boat operation, food and beverage offerings, and retail services. The concession at Glacier Bay has been operated since 2004 by Aramark Parks and Destinations. Modifications in the revised contract offering are designed to make the concession more desirable to potential bidders.

For example, the NPS has reduced the estimated initial investment of bidders by over half, from an initial estimate of $534,000 to a new level of $243,000. This reduction was achieved by removing the requirement for a concessionaire to pay for deferred maintenance, which had been estimated at $200,000 in the original proposal. It also represents a reduced estimate of the value of personal property assigned by the government or owed to the existing concessionaire.

The modification transfers maintenance for the exterior of the main lodge and the lodge boardwalks to the NPS from the concessionaire. Being relieved of a substantial portion of exterior maintenance is no small matter in Alaska. The NPS also reduced its requirements for boat tour operations, a major item that generates nearly 40 percent of the concession’s revenues. The minimum capacity of the day tour boat has been reduced from 149 to 100 passengers.

It also altered the minimum sailing requirement from daily to at least five days a week. In the initial proposal, NPS stipulated that alcoholic beverage sales could only accompany meal service. This requirement has been dropped so that alcoholic beverage sales are no longer restricted to being offered only with food service.

The NPS need for such significant modifications indicates there were no bidders on the earlier contract. An NPS official said the Service couldn’t comment on this.

Glacier Bay is a relatively isolated location, resulting in high expenses. In addition, a season of little more than three months offers a relatively short period of time to make a buck. It can also make it difficult to recruit a good management team.

One particularly interesting note in the summary of changes was this statement “….. the Service seeks Offeror’s ideas to improve the experience at Glacier Bay Lodge, through guest room improvements and improvements to the food and beverage and retail offerings.” This was a welcome addition and something we have not previously seen in an NPS prospectus.

Proposals from prospective bidders are required by September 30. A site visit is scheduled for July 30. The concession is expected to be awarded during spring 2015 with an effective operation date of October of the same year to provide the winning bidder time to market the location for the 2016 season.

Comments

The visitor facilities at Bartlett Cove are located just inside one corner of Glacier Bay, and along with the boat tours, offer visitors an outstanding opportunity for a peek into one of the nation's premier wilderness parks. The short season and the logistical challenges posed by the location would seem to justify the modifications to the contract. I hope the NPS will succeed in finding a qualified concessioner to continue these activities in coming years.

The NPS need for such significant modifications indicates there were no bidders on the earlier contract.

It would appear the NPS concessions don't offer the enormous profits that some have assumed.

I'd have to disagree with you on this one, EC. As Jim pointed out, the short season and the relatively few visitors -- 500,590 last year (most who came via cruise ship), and just 11,440 overnight lodging guests -- make this location a difficult one, financially.

But having been there, I heartily recommend a visit!

Well, at least we know this one doesn't offer enormous profits. And still no evidence has been presented here that any of the others do either.