Among the many millions of Americans being hurt financially and otherwise by the U.S. government shutdown, now in its 11th day as of this writing, are small business owners in gateways to national parks who depend on tourist dollars to survive.
An important piece in the October 11th New York Times details some of the damage. While the piece focuses mainly on the economic costs to businesses near Utah’s Zion National Park — restaurants, lodgings, souvenir shops, bike rental places and the like — the same can be said for other gateway areas across the country.
They’re feeling the pinch — actually the squeeze — from West Yellowstone, Montana, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee (headquarters of Great Smoky Mountains National Park), and Estes Park, Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) to little Tusayan, Arizona, which sits near the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.
NBC News quoted the mayor of Tusayan — who is also the owner of the local Best Western hotel — as saying “It’s disastrous,” and that the town of just 542 people has already lost close to $1 million in tourist revenue.
Around the country, workers in tourism-related businesses near national parks have been laid off or furloughed during one of the busiest travel times of the year, at the height of the fall season when Americans and foreign visitors come to enjoy the crisp air, brilliant foliage, and snow-free roads before the arrival of winter.
Now, trip cancellations are piling up like Autumn leaves. Baby boomer travelers, among many others, are losing their chances to experience places like Yosemite, Acadia, the Everglades, and Yellowstone national parks that may not come again.
The U.S. Interior Department has offered states the possibility of reopening their parks if the states pay operating costs, at least for now, and Utah has just announced that it’s reopening its national parks, while Arizona is reopening the Grand Canyon, South Dakota is reopening Mt. Rushmore, New York is reopening the State of Liberty and Colorado may be reopening Rocky Mountain National Park.
But the far better solution is for Congress to fund and reopen the entire government and stop this destructive political posturing that has been hurting Americans in ways that ripple through the entire economy — right down to little Tusayan, Arizona.
As U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow put it, “The government shutdown is throttling America’s travel sector, which, until now, has been one of the principal drivers of U.S. economic recovery. Every day the government is shut down is another $152 million down the drain and another day of financial insecurity for as many as 450,000 U.S. workers whose livelihoods are supported by travel.”