NPS Tries Again To Find A Bidder For Major Visitor Facilities at Grand Canyon National Park

The historic El Tovar hotel is only one of the lodging facilities included in the contract. NPS photo.

The South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park is the home of some of the best-known concessioner-operated visitor facilities and services in the National Park System, and the agency has announced the availability of a prospectus for future operation of those functions.

The new 15-year contract is one of the largest in the NPS in terms of revenue and lodging inventory, but previous attempts dating back to 2013 to attract any bidders have come up empty.

Included in the contract are names and activities that are almost synonymous with the park itself: the El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge, Phantom Ranch and the mule rides into the canyon. Also part of the package are the Thunderbird and Kachina Lodges, Maswik Lodge, retail and food service at Hermits Rest, retail service at Hopi House and Lookout Studio, and transportation services such as bus tours and taxi service.

The historic Desert View Watchtower, which is currently operated as a gift shop, will be transferred to the NPS and will remain open to the public.

According to a park spokesperson, the services required in this prospectus have generated an average annual gross revenue of approximately $66.1 million in the past several years.

Despite the potential revenue involved, the NPS has thus far had no success in attracting any takers for these activities. The agency previously released a similar prospectus on August 6, 2013, and extended the solicitation twice with proposals due on January 3, 2014.

The just-announced business opportunity is "very similar to solicitation CC-GRCA001-15A, announced on March 11, 2014, with the exception that the initial leasehold surrender interest has been reduced to approximately $57 million;" the estimated initial investment for company winning the contract, including the surrender interest for the current leaseholder, will be about $81.3 million. The franchise fee for the new contract has been adjusted to 14%.

The facilities and services included in this prospectus are currently operated by Xanterra.

If you'd like to see a copy of the prospectus, you'll find it online at this link.

As reported last week in the Traveler, a similar contract for the majority of the other retail, lodging and food services on the South Rim was awarded to DNC Parks & Resorts at Grand Canyon, Inc. That contract, which will begin in January 2015, covers the grocery, food service, and retail stores at the Grand Canyon Village Market, along with the Yavapai Lodge retail, lodging, and food services, Desert View services, Camper Services, and the Trailer Village RV campground.