After more than 30 years with the same company, beginning in 2014 the hotels, lodges, restaurants, stores and fleet of iconic red buses that host millions of visitors to Glacier National Park each year will be under new management.
Park officials announced Tuesday that the lucrative contract to provide visitor services inside Glacier Park has been granted to concessioner giant Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc.
Xanterra replaces Glacier Park Inc., which held the contract since 1981.
Pending review by Congress, the new 16-year contract will begin in January 2014.
“We have selected the best offer,” said Denise Germann, Glacier spokeswoman. “We’ve contacted (Xanterra) and we will work with them on execution of the contract, and Congress has a 60-day review period.”
Germann could not release the number of offers or names of other companies that submitted proposals for the contract. Some details will be finalized during the execution period, but many are detailed in the contract prospectus.
Visitor services include lodging, food and beverage, retail, transportation and other visitor services within the park.
In a prepared statement released Tuesday, Xanterra president and chief executive officer Andrew N. Todd said the company is “perfectly suited to the job of preserving this national treasure.”
“Glacier National Park has long been one of the National Park Service’s crown jewels, and all of us at Xanterra Parks and Resorts are privileged to be granted the opportunity to take the helm of the park’s concession operations and expand our partnership with the National Park Service,” Todd said in the statement.
The contract calls for operation of Lake McDonald Lodge, Apgar Village Inn, Rising Sun Motor Inn, Swiftcurrent Inn and Many Glacier Hotel, as well as the Two Medicine Camp Store, public showers and laundry facilities, and the red bus tours. The lodging facilities account for 498 guest beds and 467 employee housing beds.
In all, the concessions are expected to generate roughly $18.5 million annually.
The contract also calls for major upgrades on some of the park’s most popular hotels and lodges.
It requires replacement of much of the lodging furnishings throughout the park, remodeling selected guest rooms in the Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge, improved food and beverage services at Heidi’s in Many Glacier and the Two Medicine Camp Store.
Last February, the agency estimated the contract winner will face an initial investment of nearly $33 million. The lion’s share of the investment includes $22 million in “possessory interest” – real estate and property interest already held by Glacier Park Inc.
The prospectus was amended in February to reflect the park’s plan to retain all of the iconic red buses.
Concessioners vying for the contract were asked to describe their plans for maintaining and carrying out a rehabilitation projects for the buses. The plan also calls for the addition of two accessible buses to the fleet.
Xanterra will pay a minimum franchise fee of 1 percent of the annual gross receipts. That money will be returned to the government each year.
The contract also includes a repair and maintenance reserve of 2.35 percent and a “Red Bus Rehabilitation Reserve” of 2.5 percent, each based on annual gross receipts.
National Park Service and “technical experts” outside the park performed a comprehensive analysis of the proposals for the contract and “selected the best responsive proposal based on factors identified in the prospectus,” a news release about the contract said.
The review process began with submission of proposals in December 2012 and was the first time since 1981 that the contract was put up for bid.
Dan Hansen, marketing and public relations manager for Glacier Park Inc., said the company was preparing a statement about the contract but hadn't released it as of Tuesday night.
Glacier Park Inc. is owned by Viad Corp.
According to its website, Viad also owns Brewster Inc., a “major tourism operator in western Canada,” as well as a handful of marketing and events companies.
Xanterra will assist Glacier Park Inc. in the transition, the release said.
Xanterra provides visitor services for a wide variety of national and state parks, including Crater Lake, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
The company is owned by Philip Anschutz, in addition to ventures in oil, railroads, telecommunications and entertainment. His Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. announced in May that it would shut down its search for oil and gas on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation alongside Glacier after a petition was circulated opposing Xanterra’s bid.
In February, Xanterra was re-awarded a 20-year visitor services contract with Yellowstone Park.