The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) blasted the federal government shutdown, warning that a prolonged shutdown will have an adverse impact on the economy and the travel industry.
Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA, sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to end the shutdown.
Dale's letter was also send to active and associate members of USTOA encouraging them to reach out to elected officials, one indication of the mounting opposition to the shutdown, now in its fourth day.
"I would like to express our disappointment that our elected officials could not come to an agreement to keep the government funded and open. Should the shutdown persist, it will have a significant negative economic impact on the travel and tourism industry and our nation’s gateway communities. The U.S. travel and tourism industry is a critical part of the U.S. economy, generating an economic output of $1.9 trillion and supporting 14.4 million jobs," USTOA's letter said.
"With the government shutdown, over 21,000 members of the National Park Service staff have been furloughed without pay and all national parks and Smithsonian museums have been closed indefinitely. A third of the top 25 domestic travel destinations are National Park Service sites, and with the shuttering of all 401 National Park Service sites, the communities that surround these sites may lose as much as $30 million and 750,000 visitors per day. Moreover, these impacts will be exacerbated by delays in visa application approvals, which will further disrupt international travelers’ plans to visit our gateway communities and put a strain on a critical part of the U.S. economy," USTOA said.
Citing the history of earlier shutdowns, USTOA noted that during the FY1996 government shutdown, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimated that 7 million tourists were turned away from America’s then 368 National Park sites, and an additional 2 million visitors were turned away from national museums and monuments.
"There were also approximately 20,000-30,000 foreigners’ visa applications left unprocessed each day, as well as a total of 200,000 U.S. passport applications left in limbo. This resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue for the U.S. travel and tourism industry. In the years since the last government shutdown, the National Park System has added 33 sites. This will only result in an even greater loss of revenue for our national parks, our gateway communities, and our travel and tourism industry as a whole," USTOA said.
"USTOA urges both chambers of Congress to work with each other, and with the Administration, to reach a budget deal that provides stability to the traveling public and the communities that rely on tourism for their livelihoods."
USTOA noted Active Members represent an $11 billion industry that purchases over $8 billion in goods and services for travel packages. Together with its Associate Members they employ over 450,000 U.S. citizens.