NPHA Convenes 2006 Mid-Year Meeting
On October 2 – 4, 2006, the National Park Hospitality Association held its Mid-Year Meeting in Bar Harbor, Maine. The Meeting gathered at the Harborside Hotel & Marina, a very nice and accommodating facility right on the waterfront of picturesque Bar Harbor, gateway to Acadia National Park. It was an opportune time to be in the northeast as the autumn foliage was just turning into its colorful splendor.
The Meeting began with a reception at the historic Bar Harbor Club and was attended by NPHA members, National Park Service personnel, and other guests. The reception is always a good time to talk with old friends and make new acquaintances. The reception also featured an unscheduled earthquake, measuring around 3.8 on the Richter Scale, which shook the place and the attendees up a bit. The earthquake was accompanied by a simultaneous explosion which rocked the Bar Harbor Club. The Bar Harbor Club is not known to be earthquake proof, but is one Bar Harbor’s most famous buildings. It was founded in 1929 by the some of the country’s wealthiest families such as the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and the Fords and became a summer playground for the rich. It was these same wealthy people who donated the bulk of the land that became Acadia National Park.
The Mid-Year Meeting was officially convened on October 3 by NPHA Chairman, Joe Fassler, who also serves as chairman of Viad Corporation and Glacier Park, Inc. Joe thanked all the members and Park Service staff for making the effort to attend the meeting in a somewhat remote location and looked forward to the presentations. Introductions were made be everyone there and we were glad to see a number of concessioners from far away Lake Mead National Recreation Area, such as Lake Mead Cruises and Las Vegas Boat Harbor, in attendance.
As has become a tradition at NPHA meetings, the Reverend Richard Camp gave the invocation and was followed by welcoming comments from Dave Woodside, president of Acadia Corporation, and our unofficial host for the Mid-Year Meeting. Dave gave the attendees a background of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park and went over some of the events that would be going on the next day. The heart of the program began with John Wessels, Assistant Director of Business Services with the National Park Service who followed Dave Woodside. The Assistant Director of Business Services oversees the entire concessions program of the Park Service. John had just recently taken this position and was a new face to many NPHA members. He gave a brief overview of the concessions program and talked about the importance of concessioners and our partnerships with the National Park Service in serving the visitors at our national parks. John also talked about the newly revised Park Service Management Policies and their implications.
For the next few program sessions, NPHA was pleased to hear from Jo Pendry, the Park Service’s Concessions Program Manager. Jo has become a regular presenter at the NPHA meetings and always does a fabulous job in explaining and updating the concessions program for the members. Jo began her presentation with a current summary of the concessions contract prospectuses and their future release and also gave updates on SERA (Standard Evaluation and Rate Approvals) and gave brief remarks on the status of the new concessions regulations that should be available for public comment sometime in the Spring of 2007.
Jo was assisted by Bob Hyde, also with the National Park Service, and others, particularly employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have been working with the Park Service to develop sound business approaches in many areas of the concessions program. Two of the employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers who have become familiar faces to NPHA members are Geoff Baekey and Michael Tang. Geoff and Michael gave an informative presentation on a new system that the Park Service will be initiating for electronic filing of concessioner’s Annual Financial Reports.
After this presentation, Jo Pendry and John Wessels teamed up to talk about a very important and serious issue for all concessioners – the Service Contract Act. Two recommendations by the Department of Labor to the Park Service in the last few months have brought this issue to the forefront. The recommendations essentially said that NPS concessions contracts fall under the Service Contract Act in some instances and, if they do, the concessioner must pay prevailing union wages or wages determined by a collective bargaining agreement. Both Jo and John said that the Park Service is looking at each individual contract insofar as Service Contract Act application.
Following this presentation, Sheridan Steele, Superintendent of Acadia National Park, talked about issues in the park and touched on the Healthy Parks Initiative. This was followed by a presentation by Jack Harrison who explained issues facing the California Parks Hospitality Association and how they were handling those.
That concluded the program for October 3 and the meeting attendees gathered again in the evening for a great lobster/clam bake at the Bar Harbor Club. There does not seem to be a shortage of lobster in Bar Harbor and the lobster bake can attest to that. The food was delicious and most of the attendees were decked out in the standard lobster eating bibs. Live entertainment for those wanting to “cut a rug’ was provided by the Shane Ellis Band.
The NPHA Mid-Year Meeting reconvened on Wednesday, October 4 and began with presentations by Jim Santini and Tod Hull on the current legislation and other legislative matters effecting the concessions industry. They also gave their prognostications as to the outcome of the November elections. The rest of the morning was filled with pending business of NPHA. Specifically, NPHA reviewed a proposal to amend their by laws and change the current voting structure of the Board of Directors. The amendment was passed unanimously by the members. The members also discussed the site selection for the Mid-Year Meeting for 2007 and voted unanimously to hold the meeting at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The 2006 Mid-Year Meeting concluded with sight-seeing trip of Acadia National Park which also included stops at the concessions operations of Acadia Corporation. There the attendees looked at Acadia’s merchandise branding and Park Service interpretive displays. The trip ended with a delightful and delicious lunch at the historic Jordan Pond, a facility also operated by Acadia Corp., who also sponsored the lunch.
The 2006 Mid-Year Meeting was a great success filled with lively discussions, information gathering, and lots of entertainment and fun. NPHA wants to thank the sponsors of the Meeting and are grateful for their contributions. The sponsors for the 2006 Mid-Year Meeting were: Americana Souvenirs & Gifts, Clarion Associates, KLS Technologies, KC Publications, American Park Network, and Acadia Corporation. Thank you for making the meetings so enjoyable!
NPS Concessions Advisory Board Meets in Arizona
The National Park Concessions Advisory Board met on October 24 and 25, 2006 in Page, Arizona on the shores of Lake Powell National Recreation Area. The purpose of the Board is to advise the Secretary of the Interior and National Park Service on matters relating to the management of concessions in the park system. The Board was established in 1999 as a result of passage of the National Park Omnibus Management Act of 1998 and at this meeting the Board met for the sixteenth time.
The Park Service gave updates in a number of areas including:
Leasehold Surrender Interest Regulations: New draft regulations should be available for the public sometime in the spring of 2007;
Service Contract Act: The Park Service is considering Service Contract Act application on a contract by contract basis and is working with Congress and the Department of Labor to resolve the problem;
Standards, Evaluations, and Rate Approvals (SERA): The Park Service is still developing pilot projects to test the system;
Electronic Annual Financial Reports: Will be coming on-line in 2007 and should make it easier for concessioners to file their reports. However, use of the system will be optional and;
Insurance: The Park Service will be working with NPHA to resolve some outstanding issues by forming an ad hoc committee with representatives from NPHA, Park Service, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Attendees at the meeting also had the opportunity to look at the Lake Powell Lodge and the Antelope Point facilities. Special attention was focused on the environmental programs and use of “green” technology.
Of note, Allen Naille, Chairman of the Advisory Board since its inception in 1999 is resigning his post effective January 1, 2007. No replacement for the Chairman's postion has been recommended.