How Might A Government Shutdown Affect Travel?

Flickr user Nick Papakyriazis

With the House Republicans and virtually everyone else in government refusing to play nice, it appears the U.S. might be headed toward another costly shutdown. How might this affect the travel industry?

First, if you’re planning to visit Yosemite or any other national park, start making other vacation plans. A government shutdown means all national parks, government-owned museums like the Smithsonian and other attractions will be closed. All employees considered non-essential –- which, if you’ve ever spent any time with a Park Ranger, you know that’s a complete lie -– will be furloughed and not paid during any shutdown.

This is a massive blow to not only travelers, but the folks whose livelihoods depend on those travelers, like the diner waitresses near the National Zoo or the hotel owners throughout Acadia National Park. According to the Christian Science Monitor, during the 26-day government shutdown in 1995 and 1996, the closure of those sites meant a net loss of 9 million visitors and untold millions in lost revenue to the surrounding communities.

While passport workers will likely remain on duty, expect rampant delays. During the last shutdown, more than 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed. Tens of thousands of entry visas for foreign travel also went unprocessed each day.

Air-traffic controllers and Homeland Security personnel should remain on the job, but it’s not known if a potential shutdown will affect their jobs in other ways.