DENVER, Feb. 19, 2013 -- Xanterra Parks & Resorts®, the largest concessioner to the national parks, has completed a series of acquisitions that greatly expand the company's experiential leisure offerings. These acquisitions include three all-suite luxury cruise ships currently operated by Seabourn to become part of Windstar Cruises, VBT (Vermont) Bicycling and Walking Vacations and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., adjoining the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park where Xanterra operates more than 900 rooms and numerous retail, food and beverage and tour operations.
These acquisitions are on the heels of other recent additions – Windstar Cruises in 2011, Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va. in 2010 and the historic Grand Canyon Railway in 2007.
"These businesses build on our existing portfolio as well as expand our operations into adventure vacations throughout the world, further diversifying our leisure travel holdings," said Andrew N. Todd, president and CEO of Xanterra. "Xanterra Parks & Resorts® has grown into a diversified hospitality company with offerings on the sea, rails and land. Xanterra has expanded its revenue base by more than 50 percent through targeted acquisitions in the last three years alone and will continue to look for new opportunities to build on our diverse leisure travel portfolio."
Expansion of Windstar Fleet with Three Seabourn Ships
Xanterra reached an agreement with Seabourn, a cruise company that operates six luxury cruise ships within the Carnival Corporation, plc., to purchase three of their luxury ships – the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend. These 104-suite ships are known for their "five-star" elegant accommodations featuring ocean-view suites, multiple dining venues and spa among other fine shipboard facilities. The ships will be integrated into the newly renovated Windstar Cruises fleet over a two-year period beginning April 2014 to create one of the largest small-ship cruise lines in the industry. With capacities of just 208 persons each, these ships complement Windstar's three ships: Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf, bringing the new total Windstar fleet to six ships and 1,230 berths.
"Windstar Cruises has experienced four straight years of revenue growth. This expansion is the perfect way to build on the momentum following our recent fleet-wide renovation, providing us with the much needed capacity to match the accelerating demand for our intimate style of yacht cruising," continued Todd.
The delivery of the three all-suite ships will take place over the next two years in the Mediterranean. The Seabourn Pride will be the first ship to enter into Windstar's luxury fleet in April 2014. Following a Windstar branded renovation, which will give the ship a new name and casually elegant look, the Pride will set sail a month later in May 2014; voyages are expected to go on sale in May of this year. Windstar Cruises will take possession of Seabourn Legend in April 2015 and Seabourn Spirit in May 2015, and the yachts are scheduled to start sailing in May of 2015, following their dry-dock period.
"Windstar has built a great reputation, offering distinctive intimate, yacht-style cruising. This style is at the core of our guest experience and these ships will be a great addition to our brand," added Todd. The fleet expansion will provide Windstar Cruises access to new destinations such as Asia and South America, in addition to the 50 countries the company already sails to. Known for visiting hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world, Windstar will continue to focus on the unique experiences and destinations that large ships cannot call on. Windstar recently announced its long-awaited return to Tahiti in May 2014, one of the top destinations requested by Windstar guests and travel partners.
Windstar's shore-side operations will continue to run out of the company's Seattle headquarters. Additional details, including itineraries, onboard experiences and renovation details will be released in the coming months.
VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations
Founded in 1971 by a Middlebury College professor and originally known as Vermont Bicycle Touring, VBT offers deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, river barge and cross-country skiing tours worldwide at unsurpassed value with destinations in Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Peru, Argentina, Canada and the U.S. VBT focuses on creating life-changing vacations featuring all accommodations, meals, two expert, local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities and full vehicle support.
VBT is consistently in the top rankings by Travel + Leisure readers in the "World's Best Tour Operator" category, was named by National Geographic Adventure as one of the "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth" and recognized as one of Bicycling Magazine's "15 Trips We Love" for its Vermont: Champlain Valley & Islands vacation. Based in Bristol, Vt., VBT also operates offices in Europe and other destinations. VBT has been named "Most Active Partner" by the French Government Tourist Office and was honored by Vermont's governor for "Contributions to the State of Vermont."
"We are excited to expand into the adventure tour operator segment and believe that there are important synergies not only across our portfolio of properties but also properties owned by our sister companies in exceptional destinations that will now become part of VBT's offerings," added Todd.
The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz. was built in 1998 and features 121 rooms, spacious lobby, timber construction, rustically elegant furniture and artwork, multiple dining options, an indoor pool, hot tub and fitness center. The hotel offers an alternative lodging option immediately adjacent to the park for those who want to visit the Grand Canyon during peak visitation periods when in-park lodging is near capacity, or for travelers who prefer to be close to Tusayan's restaurants, shopping, tours and IMAX theater.
"This is a great addition to the six lodges we already operate at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and Phantom Ranch on the floor of the Canyon as well as Grand Canyon Railway and the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Ariz. some 60 miles south. No matter how you choose to see the Canyon, you have many options with us," commented Todd.
A Brief History of Xanterra
Like many U.S. companies with a long and significant history, Xanterra Parks & Resorts' corporate family tree has many branches. Visionary and company founder Fred Harvey partnered in 1876 with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to fill the need for high-quality food for rail travelers. Harvey Houses built at stops along the railroad provided good food served quickly, a new experience for train passengers who had previously had only poor-quality food available during their trips to destinations in the American West. In the early part of the 20th century, the Fred Harvey Company began expanding its operations to include concessions in national parks as well as other tourism businesses nationwide. Xanterra purchased the Fred Harvey Company in 1968, and in 1995 Xanterra acquired TW Recreational Services, making the company the largest national and state park operator in the U.S. In 2008, Xanterra was acquired by the Denver-based Anschutz Company.
"Although Xanterra's reach now extends to all seven continents, the company has remained true to Harvey's fundamental commitment to providing authentic, local travel experiences," said Todd. "All of our operations today, no matter how remote, strive to present local culture and cuisine, and preserve the environment. It is a practice that we will continue to emphasize as we develop new and better ways to serve the needs of today's traveler."
Xanterra has continued to develop or acquire operations that fit its mission to provide legendary hospitality with a softer footprint. For example, following the 2007 acquisition of the 112-year-old Grand Canyon Railway (GCR), Xanterra converted the train to an all-diesel fleet for environmental reasons. But in a nod to the historic appeal of the steam train, GCR developed a way to power an occasional steam train run to the park using recycled vegetable oil from the company's restaurant kitchens.
Xanterra will continue to seek acquisition opportunities that complement its growing portfolio. The company will also seek to establish synergies within its operations, including developing across-the-board environmental management practices and launching health and wellness initiatives that encourage employees and guests to enjoy the great outdoors in these unique and spectacular destinations.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts' other operations include lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and activities in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges, as well as the Geneva Marina in Ohio's Geneva State Park. In addition, Xanterra owns and operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va.; Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel; The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz.; VBT, a global adventure travel company; and the upscale cruise ships of Windstar Cruises.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been committed to the preservation and protection of the environment for many years. Through its environmental program, "Ecologix," Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been recognized repeatedly for environmental leadership in the hospitality industry and is the recipient of many honors, including major awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Travel Industry Association of America, American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Colorado Department of Public Health, State of Arizona, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
For more information about Xanterra Parks & Resorts, links to individual properties and reservations numbers, visit www.xanterra.com.