The United States is today facing its first Government shut down since 1995. The US Congress has failed to agree a budget by the annual deadline as Republicans hold government services to ransom in an attempt to halt President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. You may ask what this has to do with travel as this is a political argument but if the shutdown goes ahead the impact on tourism will be immense.
In a Government shutdown all national parks in the nation will be closed with all but the most essential staff being sent home. Day use visitors will be asked to leave immediately whilst those staying overnight will be given two days to make alternative arrangements and leave the areas. Park access roads will be closed and further access to travellers denied.
Many Parks and Many People
There are 401 national parks in the United States and they receive 287 million visitors each year so a great number of people will be inconvenienced. Whilst many of these will be American nationals who may have the opportunity to return in the future there will be others who are not so fortunate. Millions of overseas tourists will be impacted and some of them will be on once in a lifetime trips and have return flights that cannot be changed. If you have been planning your dream vacation for months or years and are suddenly summarily removed from the park you are not going to be happy!
The shutdown will be enforced at every park in the nation including Alcatraz, Yellowstone, The Great Smokey Mountains and the Everglades. Some regions have already had severe problems to contend with this year. Businesses around Yosemite have been heavily impacted by the recent enormous forest fires and were already struggling to recover. Now they face all of the tourists in the region disappearing overnight as they are ordered to leave. Many of the parks are in remote areas where businesses only survive through tourism and where travellers will have few alternative destinations within easy travelling distance.
If you are about to leave for a trip to America then you may wish to change your plans or seek advice from your tour operator and insurer before you pack your seasonal footwear. Double check if the places you intend to visit are national parks and monuments because they will all be affected, and keep a close eye on the news.
An Own Goal
This situation could cause carnage not to mention major outrage both from American nationals and foreign visitors and could prove to be a serious own goal on the part of the Republicans. One can only hope that common sense prevails and that the situation quickly returns to normal.
Article by Sally Stacey