Dear U.S. Government Leaders,
Well, it's been a very interesting week. We all know you have the very challenging job of working through bitterly divided opinions. But despite this division, there is one overwhelming point that all U.S. citizens can agree on, and that is shutting down the federal government is not the way to go about it.
We in the travel industry stand with this opinion, because the very resident jobs and spending in the districts you represent, stand to lose so much from your continued inability to broker an agreement.
With the country’s 401 national parks currently closed, the U.S. is turning away 715,000 visitors that bring in not only $32 million to the park system, but also $76 million to local economies for every day that this shut down goes on.
While this would not be welcome at any time, October is the busiest time of year for Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park. It’s also the beginning of fall hunting season for the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho, and they’ve suspended outfitter and guide permits, essentially killing the season’s lifeline. It’s also prime leaf-peeping season, and Minute Man National Historic Park in Massachusetts is turning away caravans of buses and school trips. In California, Yosemite National Park’s doors became locked on not only its 123rd birthday, but also on the heels of the recent rim fire, thereby destroying any chance for recovering the end of its visitor season.
Consider how these closures are affecting the very places you were elected to serve, especially now that you’ve passed the cost of this shut down to the American people. The town of Tusayan that sits outside of Grand Canyon National Park is ponying up $325,000 to keep the park open. Hotels have also relaxed refund policies for travelers. Others, like in Joshua Tree National Park, have simply closed for the week. Tour operators, both domestic and international, are refunding travelers or drastically reworking itineraries at the last minute.
While there are immediate ramifications to this shut down, the ripple effects are all the worse. Short term revenue hits aside, our community of official destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are even more concerned about the indirect and long-term effect that a prolonged shut down will have throughout our local economies. Staffing and services will have to be cut, as is the case along the Colorado River, whose outfitters may have to start laying off employees within a week’s time if things don’t shape up in Washington. This kind of behavior deals a deep blow to an industry that has actually been leading recent job growth in the U.S.
Finally, we fear for the effects that a lasting impression of a dysfunctional travel environment will have on this industry. Already foreign countries like the UK, Germany, and Australia are issuing travel advisories to the country. Last week was also “Golden Week” for China – one of the few, long national holidays where Chinese tourists have time to travel abroad. Yes, the same Chinese tourists who are the world’s biggest-spending travelers according to the United Nations Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), are suddenly “at a loss of what to do,” according to China News Service.
As Michael Gehrisch, President and CEO of DMAI said, “As an economic and cultural development tool for locations all over the U.S., destination marketing is a delicate balancing act of visitor, service provider, and community interests. Throwing any one of these out of sync will inevitably disrupt the whole ecosystem with lasting economic consequences.”
So please, we know you have a challenging job, but travel and tourism is just one of many bipartisan initiatives that are suffering from a partisan despute. Please work it out.
Your Neighborhood DMO