ASTA: Longer Shutdown Worse for Travel Industry

Transportation Security Administration agents help passengers through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport. // Photo by AP Photo/Seth Wenig via Newscred

With multiple media outlets reporting that the partial government shutdown is beginning to lead to long wait times at airports, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has weighed in on the potential long-term impact to the travel industry.

“While the immediate impact to our industry is limited, the longer the government shutdown lasts the greater the chance of negative economic consequences,” an ASTA spokesperson tells Travel Agent. “Items we’re watching range from National Park closures to airport security staffing to air traffic control functions to passport and trusted traveler program enrollments to the macroeconomic consequences of 800,000 people going without a paycheck. ASTA is monitoring the situation and keeping our members updated while helping to educate policymakers on the impacts of the shutdown on the travel industry.”

In a members-only update issued by ASTA, the organization said that the most immediate impacts of the shutdown would be limited to the closure of national parks and federally run museums. While government workers essential to travel, such as air traffic controllers, airport security personnel and customs, border and immigration employees, will continue to stay on the job without pay, ASTA said that it is “aware of reports of a spike in TSA screeners calling in sick during the shutdown impacting wait times at some airports.”

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Many national parks are closed, while others remain open but without services such as restrooms, trash collection or maintenance, ASTA said. Additionally, all 19 museums of the Smithsonian, as well as the National Zoo, closed as of January 2.

According to Time magazine, a growing number of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners calling in sick has led to longer wait times at U.S. airports, including Dallas – Forth Worth and New York – LaGuardia. The TSA has told Time that approximately 220,000 travelers waited at least 15 minutes at checkpoints over the weekend, while 0.2 percent of travelers waited a half an hour or more. The organization has a team of officers who can be deployed to airports facing a worker shortage.

Meanwhile, some state and local organizations have pitched in to keep national parks open or to provide visitor services in the parks. For example, in Utah, a number of state and local entities have collaborated to keep services going at Bryce Canyon and Zion.

"Don't cancel your plans if you scheduled a trip to Bryce Canyon from the United States or overseas," said Gayle Pollack, director of the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association, which is helping to provide funding to maintain services at the national park during the shutdown, in a written statement. "When you come here the restrooms will be clean, the park will be open and there will be people with smiles to welcome you."

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