The federal government shutdown may have cost the U.S. travel industry about $2.2 billion in direct spending, tourism officials said this week, reacting to the end of government gridlock in Washington, D.C. Basic travel services like security screening and air traffic control were largely unaffected by the shutdown, but the closure of national parks and historic sites harmed the many local economies that depend upon visitors to those destinations.
The shutdown didn't have a significant impact on the Colorado ski industry, even though most resorts in the state operate on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Despite the shutdown, ski areas were able to continue preparations for the season, with a few key Forest Service personnel remaining on duty to oversee essential operations.
Tourism industry leaders said the shutdown cost an estimated $152 million per day in travel-related economic output. As many as 450,000 Americans work in tourism-related jobs, and some of them felt the pain, as hotels, shops and restaurants near national parks and other federally managed attractions saw business decline.
During the shutdown, countries such as Germany, the U.K. and China — which together account for more than five million visitors to the U.S. annually — issued warnings to their citizens about possible shutdown-related problems and delays when traveling to and within the U.S. Impacts to specific businesses are described on this U.S. Travel website.
"America's travel community thanks President Obama and congressional leaders for reaching bipartisan agreement to reopen the government and end the hemorrhaging of dollars and jobs that threatened to hobble the United States travel economy," said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow. "The shutdown's damage cannot be undone, but reopening the government will allow America's travel community to get back to work and continue to drive U.S. economic recovery." Dow warned that the shutdown likely will have long-term consequences for the United States' brand in the competitive international travel market.
"Economies hate uncertainty," Dow said. "Now that the shutdown has been concluded, the best thing our federal policymakers can do for our economy is to pursue a long-term fiscal plan that includes commitments to invest in our country's aging travel infrastructure."
Dow also hailed comments from President Obama that the shutdown's end will allow him to return focus to pursuing an immigration reform package.
"Immigration reform was among the constructive legislative efforts that unfortunately were derailed by the shutdown," Dow said. "The travel community strongly supported the package that has already been passed by the Senate, and we have every confidence that leaders in the House will move forward on this important issue."
The immigration issue is important to the travel industry because it depends in part on foreign workers living in the U.S. under temporary visas. The immigration reform package also includes measures that could ease certain travel restrictions.