Deeply wounded by the closure of national parks and other federally run attractions, the U.S. tourism industry is urging Congress and the White House to reach a resolution to the budget impasse.
Tales from the frontline
The U.S. Travel Association posted “tales from the frontline” on its website last week in which hotel and tour operators and local tourism across the country described serious economic damage to their businesses and communities – everything from cancelled weddings in Yosemite to $40,000 per day losses to shops and restaurants in Acadia National Park.
"Policymakers must understand that it's not just federal employees that are affected by the shutdown. Entire local economies are built around our national parks and historic attractions," said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement.
"We're hearing from family-owned businesses who have had no choice but to send their employees home, with no idea when or if they will be able to call them back."
Dow also warned of a possible setback to the U.S. travel industry’s efforts to encourage inbound tourism, citing instances of overseas travelers being cautioned against visiting the U.S. He urged Congressional leaders “to realize that the longer this goes on, the worse the long-term implications will be for major portions of our economy."
Call your representative
For its part, the NTA urged its members to contact their Congressional representatives, preferably by phone, and posted instructions on its website for the best way to go about that.
NTA also drafted a message for members to send to Congress, as follows: “I work in the tourism industry, and the shutdown is hurting my business and the U.S. economy. I ask that you vote to pass a clean resolution now and negotiate budget issues later.”
In addition, NTA drafted and sent a letter on Oct. 3 to the White House titled “Reopen the Parks to the People.” The letter was also signed by such industry groups as U.S. Travel, ASTA and Destination Marketing Association International.
The letter detailed the possible economic impact of the park closures and asked President Obama for “your help in making certain that the pain resulting from closures and the budget cuts for parks and other public lands ends quickly.”
NTA president Lisa Simon urged the organization’s members to share information with each other on possible changes to itineraries that feature national parks and other federal sites.
“If you will send NTA the alternatives to federal sites and attractions in your area, we will post them on our homepage,” she said in a message posted on the NTA’s website.
Getting the word out
Meanwhile, tourism boards and local chambers of commerce across the country have been busy getting the word out to travelers and tour operators about tourism alternatives to closed federal sites in their areas.
For example, the Grand Junction (Colo.) Visitor and Convention Bureau issued “10 Alternative Travel Ideas.”
In Maine, the state’s Office of Tourism issued a statement from the governor urging travelers to visit the region despite the closure of Acadia National Park.
"Bar Harbor is full of trails, restaurants, local attractions and a variety of outdoor-activity businesses," said governor Paul R. LePage. "The scenic wonders of Downeast Maine cannot be closed off by failed leadership in Washington."
Meanwhile, tour operators with national park itineraries have been forced to cancel more tours as the shutdown continues. Among them is Tauck, which cancelled its “America’s Canyonlands” tours scheduled to depart on Oct. 5 and 7, as well as “Yosemite & Sequoia: John Muir’s California” scheduled for Oct. 5. (See Nat’l Park Closures Send Tour Ops Into Damage Control)
“All I can say is thank goodness that this shutdown happened toward the end of the season,” said Mary Novak-Beatty, vice president of Mayflower Tours, which had to modify two itineraries that included national parks. “If this were the middle of summer, we would be disappointing a lot of our travelers.”