Report on the 2005 Mid-Year Meeting
On October 5 - 7, 2006 the National Park Hospitality Association held its Mid-Year Meeting at the Westin Hotel and Resort on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Known for its sunshine, the early arrivers to St. John got just the opposite as it rained fairly steadily from Sunday until Wednesday when the clouds broke just in time for the Welcome Reception hosted by Rik Blyth and the Caneel Bay Resort. Members and guests took the Caneel Bay ferry from the Westin dock over to Caneel Bay Resort where we were treated to delicious cuisine and drinks. Thanks to Rik and Caneel Bay for a great evening!
The Mid-Year Meeting began on October 6 and there was a full slate of speakers and presentations. NPHA Chairman, Andrew N. Todd opened the meeting to order and introduced Rik Blyth who, in turn, introduced Julien Harley, Island Administrator for the island of St. John who gave us a flavor of the island, the beauty, and the culture that is there. George E. Campsen, Jr. then introduced me, Tod Hull, as the new Washington Representative for NPHA.
The program got underway when, after being introduced by Andy Todd, the keynote speaker, Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of Management, Policy, and Budget for the Department of the Interior gave a general themed overview of how the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service have worked to build the agency in a more business-like fashion following enactment of the National Park Omnibus Management Act of 1998. Ms. Scarlett was followed by Pat Hooks, NPS Southeast Regional Director and Art Fredrick, Superintendent of the Virgin Islands National Park who talked about the concessions management program in the southeast and the concessions program at Virgin Islands National Park, respectively.
Next, Jo Pendry, NPS Concessions Program Manager gave an update on the status of the concessions program as a whole and then, with the help of Geoff Baekey of Price Waterhouse Coopers, gave a presentation on SERA, Standards, Evalution, and Rate Approvals. SERA was being tested as a pilot project at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and is now at a stage where draft standards and classifications will be developed for Lodging, Food and Beverage, Retail, and, later on, for Marinas. These classifications will be pilot tested at other national parks to determine how well they capture real business operations. Ms. Pendry has also requested that NPHA assist the Park Service in the 7-yr Report due to Congress this January on implementation of the 1998 Act along with help on another report concerning Made in America souvenirs and handicrafts. More on this will be found near the end of the Newsletter/Update.
After lunch, Ms. Pendry and Mr. Baekey returned to give a presentation on Leasehold Surrender Interest or LSI. The presentation was very informative and made a complex problem easier to understand. Most of it centered on the Park Service's plan to integrate the recommendations made by the NPS Concessions Advisory Board into NPS regulations. In short, the recommendations will become, in large part, the new regulations for the 1998 Act, although even the Park Service recognizes that there are many details to get ironed out. The recommendations are based on "Source of Funds", that is, whoever funds a particular capital improvement project will get the credit for it. For the concessioner that means if you fund the project, LSI will accrue to you. As mentioned, there is a lot of work yet to be done, but the regulations will be coming out in the near future, probably in early 2006. These will be available for comment when they are released to the public. When the regulations become final they will replace the current regulations, including the ill-concieved "50% Rule". NPHA will be working hard to assure that the regulations fit the Advisory Board recommendations and that our interests are served.
Another key point was made regarding asset management, in terms of both LSI and real property. The NPS will be required to track LSI through the life of the contract, however, it will be incumbent on the concessioner to track real property and assess the condition of the property. The more this is done during the life of the contract, the easier it will be to determine LSI when the contract is renewed.
Following Mr. Baekey, Mike Weber from Eastman Kodak Company gave a presentation on event imaging solutions. This digital photographic system can be used by concessioners to increase revenue and is well-accepted by the public.
This ended the program for Thursday and all the participants at the conference later gathered for a great night of dancing to a live band playing a number of favorites and island style music and a dinner of fabulous food. The dinner turned out to be one of the highlights of the Mid-Year Meeting as NPHA members and Park Service personnel alike let their hair down and got to know each other a little better. No one was as surprised as me to find out that our association and the Park Service have some terrific dancers with more stamina than I ever could have imagined!
We began the Friday morning session with an inspiring invocation from Rev. Dick Camp of the Christian Ministry in National Parks who was followed by Aubrey King, president of the National Alliance of Gateway Communities who talked about the role Gateway Communities play in conjunction with federal land management agencies, including the National Park Service. Gateway Communities play an import role in federal land management and concessioners, being part of that community, can be involved also. There currently is a bill, introduced by Cong. George Radanovich, which would give Gateway Communities status as cooperating agencies in land management planning. The bill has not yet gone to Committee for consideration.
Jim Santini came next and gave his stellar presentation of the state of Congress and the various pieces of legislation that are important to NPHA. As many of you are aware, the Department of the Interior 2006 Appropriations bill had two amendments that we fought hard to remove. One, the onerous "Made in America" amendment, was dropped from the bill and much softer language was added to the bill report. The new language mandates that the Park Service provide Congress a report as to their efforts in encouraging concessioners and cooperating associations to sell souvenirs and handicrafts made in America. The second amendment, the de Novo amendment, gives the NPS a second chance in Claims Court if they do not like the decision of binding arbitration regarding conversion of possessory interest to leasehold surrender interest. This amendment is simply unfair and changes the law set forth in the 1998 Act. We will be working hard to eliminate this amendment from any future appropriations bill.
Tod Hull followed Jim and explained what he has been doing since joining NPHA in June of 2005. It took awhile to get the office in order and Tod needed to hire and train new staff as the first assistant didn't work out. He also helped Jim Santini with legislative issues and planned for the 2005 Mid-Year Conference. Andy Todd adjourned the meeting just before noon on October 7 after some closing remarks and so ended the 2005 Mid-Year Meeting.
We would also like to thank the following Associate Members who sponsored many of the events at the 2005 Mid-Year Meeting: American Park Network, Clarion, Coca Cola, Caneel Bay, KC Publications, Reserve World (Spherix), and SiteTek Financial Services. Thank you all for your generous support!
New Membership Initiative
A major topic of discussion at the Mid-Year Meeting and elsewhere throughout the Association is the fact that NPHA has, of recent, lost some of its members. In order to be as effective as we can be as an association, we need to have a strong membership. In this light, it was decided by the NPHA Board of Directors and by the General Membership that a major and concerted drive be made to boost both full and associate members within the Association. Tod Hull will spearhead this effort with the help of all the existing members. A small working group was formed, made up of Phyllis Prevost, Pam Pitts, George E. Campsen, Jr. and Dave Woodside, in order to facilitate the membership drive and will be helping Tod coordinate this effort. Over the next few months Tod and the members of the working group will be contacting you to help with this campaign. We need a personal touch of contact with prospective members and the best people to do that are existing members, who know the benefits of being in the Association and also know the prospective members.
Going hand-in-hand with the new membership initiative is a revamp of the current NPHA materials. Many of the items we hand out to new or prospective members is outdated and stale. In some of the material the data is incorrect or does not portray our full message and recent accomplishments. Because of this a concurrent effort will be underway to rewrite and add to existing material explaining who we are, what we do, and how being a part of the Association will be of benefit. Much of this material will be in a newer more modern format also. We will be doing much more information distribution through the electronic media, rather than sending it out via regular mail. This NPHA Newsletter/Update is an example of how information will now be distributed. We also are going to have greater control over our Association website and will be updating the information on the website periodically throughout the year. This will give us the needed flexibility to manipulate the website when new issues arise or material becomes outdated.
NPHA would like to welcome four new Associate Members that were unanimously approved by the Board of Directors and then the General Membership at the 2005 Mid-Year Meeting. These new members include International Paper (represented by James McDonald and David Struhs), Pelican Products (represented by Kevin Emmons), PinancleOne (represented by John Dunkerley), and Tool Logic (represented by Steve Padden). We look forward to working with our new members and meeting them at the 2006 Annual Meeting, if not before. Please learn more about them from these websites: www.internationalpaper.com; www.pelican.com; www.PinancleOne.com; and www.toollogic.com.
One of the key points Jim Santini made in his presentation was the value of having a strong Political Action Committee. Ours, CONPAC, has been very active in the past and will continue to be. Of course, one of the main reasons to have an association is to influence the federal government and Congress as best we can to serve our interests. This is done through the PAC and we have been very successful in the past. However, in order to have an effective PAC we need to have it funded. We are asking each one of you to please make a contribution to CONPAC. It helps us become an effective association which, in turn benefits us all.
The National Park Service recently released their draft Management Policies which are now open for public comment. These policies guide the NPS in their decision making and serve as very important documents that are greatly relied upon by NPS personnel. This is your only chance to comment on these policies and your only chance to give your input and let the Park Service know of your concerns or issues. The comment period closes February 18, 2006 and the document can be found at this email address:
As you may have seen, I sent out an Issues Survey to all NPHA members in order to get some idea as to what issues your business has concerns with and how we might best address those issues. The survey also asked in what areas NPHA has been effective in the past. Filling out the survey is about the only way that we will know of your concerns and how we can adequately address them. Please take the time to fill it out. If we don't know what your concerns are, it is impossible for us to act upon them. Thanks to all of you who have returned the survey to us.
We hope that the changes we are initiating will help the Association become bigger, better, stronger, and more effective. An Association is only as strong as its members - and we have a strong core group of members. We need more, however, who can bring in new and fresh ideas and we will be asking for your help in this initiative.
We also hope the new format will be more convenient for you. It has proven to be a good way to disseminate information in a timely and productive manner.
Thank you for all your support and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to call me (703)242-1999 or email at email@example.com.