For generations, the Glacier Park Inc. name has been synonymous with properties in and around Northwest Montana’s most iconic attraction. But a rebranding effort at the storied company will remove the name from lodges and hotels that surround Glacier National Park.
Last month, Glacier Park Inc. was redubbed the “Glacier Park Collection” under the Pursuit brand. Pursuit, which is owned by Viad, calls itself “a collection of inspiring, unforgettable travel experiences in Alaska, Montana, the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver B.C.” Viad owns a number of travel and lodging sites across North America.
The Glacier Park Collection includes the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier; the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park; the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish; the St. Mary Lodge & Resort; the Apgar Village Lodge; Motel Lake McDonald; and the West Glacier Motel & Cabins.
“Pursuit is a collection of unforgettable experiences,” said Glacier Park Collection spokesperson Rebecca Baker. “We have experienced a lot of change in the last few years, and I think there has been some confusion locally about what GPI is, so this gives us an opportunity to redefine ourselves.”
The Glacier Park Inc. name dates back to when the Great Northern Railway played a major role in the park’s development. In the 1910s, two different companies operated the lodges and bus tours within the park: the Glacier Park Hotel Company, backed by the railway, and the Glacier Park Transportation Company, backed by the White Motor Company. In the 1950s, the hotel company absorbed the bus operations and became the Glacier Park Company.
In 1957, the railway sold off its interests in the park to Donald Knutson, who ran a construction company and owned hotels in Minnesota and North Dakota. In December 1960, Don and Gail Hummel and Don Ford purchased the company for $1.4 million and renamed it Glacier Park, Inc.
The company was sold in 1981 to Greyhound Food Management of Phoenix, Ariz., which eventually became the Dial Corp. In 1996, the company split into two entities: the Dial Corporation and Viad Corp., which became GPI’s parent company.
Glacier Park Inc. was the primary concessioner within Glacier National Park until 2013 when it lost the contract to operate the hotels and lodges in the park (including the Lake McDonald Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel) to Xanterra Parks & Resorts. The change shocked many in the local community and drastically changed Glacier Park Inc.’s business model.
Since then, however, the company has continued to grow, and in 2014 it purchased a number of businesses in West Glacier from the Lundgren family, including the West Glacier Motel & Cabins; the West Glacier Restaurant & Bar; the West Glacier Mercantile; the West Glacier Gift Shop and other guest services. Additionally, the sale included 3.8 acres of inholding within Glacier National Park in Apgar, the Apgar Village Lodge, the Cedar Tree Gift Shop and staff housing units in Apgar and West Glacier. The sale also included 200 acres of land on which Glacier Park Inc. has been trying to build an RV park.
Pursuit officials say despite the new brand, little will change for visitors, and staffing levels at all the hotels and lodges will remain the same. Mark Hendrikse, vice president of marketing for Pursuit, said the company will focus more on advertising its individual properties, like the Glacier Park Lodge or Prince of Wales Hotel. For example, in years past, visitors may have found GPI-branded items at a gift shop, but now they will find items branded for the specific site they’re visiting.
“We felt like we were missing an opportunity,” Hendrikse said. “(People don’t want to stay with Glacier Park Inc.); they want to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel or Glacier Park Lodge.”
Glacier Park Collection vice president and general manager Ron Cadrette said visitors will still receive great service under the new brand and that he’s excited about the years to come. Cadrette said the company’s growth in recent years is far from over.
“We’re in acquisition mode and we’re still looking to expand,” he said.