RRFW Riverwire - Concessions Renewed while Thousands Lose Lottery

April 21, 2018

Grand Canyon National Park is soliciting bids for up to sixteen river concession contracts to provide commercial river trips on the 277 mile long section of the Colorado River within the park. The river concessions contracts will be valid through at least the end of 2028. Solicitations are due May 1, 2018.

The 218 page river concessions prospectus is in a pdf document here:

https://rrfw.org/sites/default/files/documents/GRCA_River_Concessions_Prospectus_2018.pdf

The sixteen existing river concessioners are all classified as “preferred offerors” for the new contracts. This allows the existing concessionaires the right to match the terms of non-concession applications. If the existing concessioner does that, they are guaranteed to obtain the new contract.

In 1971, Grand Canyon National Park changed twenty two special use permittees offering river trips into river concessionaires. Since then, some of the small concessionaires have sold out to larger ones.

The largest river concessionaire charged $36 per-person per-night in 1971. That price had risen to $450 per-night in 2006. That same concessionaire is charging $560 per-person per-night for the 2019 river season. In the next ten years, the per-night cost for a commercial trip is projected to increase to close to $800 per-person per-night.

Concessions passengers who can afford the steep price simply go to a website, chose a launch date certain, and either charter an entire trip or book however many seats they want.

Meanwhile, do-it-yourself river trip participants can spend $800 per person for an entire eighteen night river trip going all the way through the Grand Canyon. Unlike the concessions passengers, the do-it-yourself river runners must successfully navigate a very complex lottery and permitting process first introduced as part of the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan.

When introduced, Park Service planners anticipated the success ratio in the lottery would be better than 3%. With 3% odds, the NPS noted the average lottery player would win a permit once every thirty years. The 2018 river lottery win chances have dropped to 2%. By 2028, it is anticipated that the do it yourself permit lottery win rate will have decreased to 1%.

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