Whether it is Mount Rainier, one of National Park Service’s crown jewels, or the Everglades, the largest tropical wilderness in the country, Guest Services has the honor of stewarding our country’s most iconic natural treasures. It is because of our meaningful partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and many of the country’s State Park organizations that we are so privileged to welcome millions of visitors every year at these extraordinary places.
To gain a better understanding of these legacy partnerships, Dr. Fran Mainella, the 16th National Park Service Director and first woman Director of both NPS and Florida State Parks as well as a board member of Guest Services, provided us with a more in-depth look at its significance through an exclusive interview with The Insider.
Fran’s astonishing success has spanned her entire career. While she was Director of Florida State Parks, the organization received the Gold Medal Award, recognizing Florida as the best state park system in the country. She has accepted awards and honors from Clemson University, East Carolina University, University of Connecticut, The American Recreation Coalition, as well as countless other highly accredited entities. Her achievements with and passionate knowledge of the country’s park system is nationally renowned, which brings Guest Services an enormous sense of pride having her on our board of directors, and makes her the perfect person to discuss our partnership with NPS.
Why is the partnership between Guest Services and Park Service Organizations so important?
“I realized early in my tenure as Director of Florida State Parks it isn’t just the park service employees, but it’s the volunteers, the groups, our business partners, and our concessioners… all are a crucial part of the way we better serve. Without strong, trustworthy partnerships we could not succeed, and when I became National Park Service Director, I brought this same focus. We need great partners to help us serve the public. We can’t function in isolation.”
Fran effectively established a mindset within the National Park Service that all should “work beyond boundaries” to achieve success and to meet the needs of the park and their valued visitors. This partnership is paramount to Guest Services’ continued growth and, simultaneously, to the National Park Service’s ability to provide its guests with the best possible service and experience.
“As the Director of National Park Service I worked with business partners from Xanterra to Delaware North, they do a lot of things very well, but Gerry Gabrys was someone that I knew I could trust and Guest Services was the company I knew could deliver. It was never only about the profit for Guest Services; it was sincerely about making sure the parks were always properly taken care of, and the visitors were always properly served. It is an outstanding relationship, and I respected Guest Services tremendously from day one.”
“The bottom line is if Gerry told me something Guest Services would do, it actually happened, and if they couldn’t it do it, then they would let me know and start working toward an alternative solution. This meant a tremendous amount. It was much more difficult with other businesses; again I knew I could trust Guest Services. If they say they’re going to do it, then they’re going to. That’s hard to come by.”
How has charity played a role in our park system partnership?
While working with both National Park Service and Florida State Parks, Fran wanted to give back to the parks personally. In pursuit of this benevolent endeavor, she volunteered to be on the board of the South Florida National Park Trust, a philanthropic arm for the Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, and Big Cyprus National Parks. It is here she decided to start a fundraiser, and immediately thought to give Guest Services the opportunity to give back to the parks while showcasing our food service capabilities.
“For the past three years Guest Services has helped the South Florida National Park Trust, and the West Coast Committee run the Wine and Wildlife Event which has become very successful. The first year we had the goal of just breaking even on the event, and we ended up raising $10,000; the next year our goal was $15,000, and we reached $20,000; our goal this past year was $25,000, and we raised $55,000! The success we’ve been able to accomplish is tied directly to Guest Services involvement. The culinary experience that is successfully delivered for our donors is second-to-none. ”
“This is another shining example of the charitable side of Guest Services. The team stepped in without necessarily needing a financial commitment, but just a thank you, that has been something that is very important to us. Not just agreeing to help, but doing it with enthusiasm, creativity, energy, meaningful thought, and genuine appreciation.”
Wine and Wildlife is now the largest annual fundraising event for the South Florida National Park Trust, and it continues to grow each year. We look forward to hosting the next event that will take place in February of 2019 in Naples, FL.
What does the future hold for our partnership with State and National Parks?
“Having such a strong foundation of trust speaks to a very positive future. The National Park Service will never have enough money or people to tell the whole story and provide all the services that need to be done. We need partners, and the key to partners is trust. I know some of the people that are in leadership today [at NPS], and I feel that they understand the significance of the trust National Park Service can have in Guest Services.”
It doesn’t stop at the National Park Service. This faith in our ability reaches into the State Park systems around the country, especially Florida State Parks. Fran says, “The National Association of State Park Directors has seen a greater and greater role from Guest Services. Several years ago, we weren’t very well known in those circles. Now, I don’t think there’s a State Park Director in the country that doesn’t know about Guest Services. We may not always get selected, but we do get a lot of opportunities, and many state parks will fight for us to operate at their property.”
A Message to All Team Members
Fran finished the interview with gratitude, “I want to say thank you to all the employees because Guest Services is only as good as all our team members. I hope you know how important you are. The best asset we have is our amazing employees.”