David Jin, the developer of the Grand Canyon Skywalk on the Hualapai Indian Reservation at Grand Canyon West, has died after a four-year battle with cancer.
Jin, 51, devoted much of his career to bringing tourists from his native China to the American Southwest with his company, Oriental Tours.
But his biggest achievement was designing and building the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped, glass-floored walkway that extends 70 feet away from the canyon rim that opened in March 2007. Jin had worked on tourism enterprises with the tribe with bus tours to Grand Canyon West, but the addition of the Skywalk expanded visitation exponentially. Officials say 2.7 million people have visited the area since the Skywalk opened.
In recent years, the management of Skywalk has been embroiled in a contentious court dispute between Jin and the tribe, which attempted to take over the attraction through eminent domain. Court rulings that have been appealed by the tribe awarded Jin $28.5 million.
“David loved America and particularly the southwestern region,” said Anita Wong, manager of Far East marketing for Oriental Tours. “He was a compassionate man who was enamored with the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Together, we have built relationships throughout Asia and across the world creating a pipeline of tourism for the desert Southwest. I will continue our work and make David proud.”
Jin’s wife and business partner, Yvonne, is expected to take over ownership responsibilities of Grand Canyon Skywalk Development and Oriental Tours and another tour company, Y-Travel. Ted Quasula, Jin’s longtime business associate and a Hualapai Tribe member, will continue to manage Grand Canyon Skywalk Development.
“David believed in the Hualapai people and treated us as partners,” Quasula said in a statement. “He was saddened by the ongoing battle with recent tribal councils over the Skywalk management contract and unfortunately did not live to see its resolution. The Grand Canyon Skywalk will be David’s legacy for eternity.”
Jin’s attorney, Las Vegas-based Mark Tratos, said the family would continue to pursue its legal fight.
“David’s vision for Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, Oriental Tours and Y-Travel will continue to flourish through Yvonne and the existing management team, who have been running these businesses for years,” Tratos said in a statement. He added, “David had the vision of exposing visitors from around the world to the wonders of the southwest, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon as only an immigrant who loved this country could have.”
Representatives of Jin’s family said he died in Los Angeles.