Impact Of Sequester Cuts On Travel: Festivals Not So Festive

sequester cuts

Recent sequester cuts have had a big impact on travel in a number of ways. Cutbacks have resulted in everything from grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at dozens of air shows around the country to turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport. Cuts to the budgets of national parks have popular attractions opening on a delayed schedule, closing visitor centers and operating without campgrounds.

But those who (still) work and operate facilities, festivals and events that would normally draw travelers from around the world are pressing on, promising to make the best of a bad situation.

A highlight, if not the main attraction, to Fleet Week at a number of major U.S. cities is a showcase of active duty military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations and brought to town for the event.sequester cutsA tradition of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard since 1935, Fleet Week began in San Diego with 114 warships and 400 military planes. Since then, annual Fleet Week events began in San Francisco, New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Seattle, Washington, includes fleet week during the annual Seafair. In Portland, Oregon, fleet week is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The shows brought ships full of military personnel to town, as well as travelers who looked forward to tours of ships, military demonstrations and air shows, adding to local tourism revenue. But on the heels of the secretary of defense announcing that ships will not be visiting, show organizers are turning to a different focus.

“We’re all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units,” said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc., the non-profit organization that spearheads Florida’s Fleet Week Port Everglades, in this NBC Miami report.

The Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week event, still scheduled for April 29 through May 6, normally has hotels booked full and Florida highways clogged for a week. Organizers hope to keep the lion’s share of that activity by hosting a variety of other events.

Golf tournaments, a 5K race, major league baseball games, culinary competitions and deep-sea fishing will attempt to replace active-duty warships and the Blue Angels. Canceled ship tours will give way to honoring the active duty military of the United States Southern Command and Coast Guard District 7, both based in South Florida.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and event organizers are to be commended for pressing on. Still, this travel-affecting result of sequester budget cuts can’t help but make one wonder if there was not some other way to address this problem with the nation’s economy.

“No one can deny that we have passed through troubled years. No one can fail to feel the inspiration of your high purpose. I wish you great success,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 at the beginning of the first fleet week.

[Photo credit – Flickr user St0rmz]

Free Empire State Building admission for Fleet Week sailors

Ah, Fleet Week — the annual event when hundreds of uniformed sailors descend on New York City, much to the delight of locals and photo-happy tourists alike.

As New York Harbor welcomes U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships this year from May 26 to June 2, so too will all the local restaurants, stores, and bars. During this week, the Empire State Building is offering free Observatory admission to any uniform-clad military personnel.

For everyone else, free ship tours are available to the general public in Manhattan at Pier 88 and in Staten Island. Based on my experience in past years, the lines are long so plan accordingly. I also don’t recommend wearing a skirt or heels. You’d think that is common sense, but on a summery day, it’s easy to forget that looking cute isn’t very practical when exploring a ship.

In addition to the Empire State Building, many of the city’s finest institutions will be waiving admission fees for active duty service personnel and veterans over Memorial Day weekend. Participating attractions include the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Ellis Island Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum.

Details: Here’s a list of participating attractions for “New York Museums Salute Memorial Day: A Weekend of Appreciation.” Proper military ID is required for free admission.

Even if you don’t qualify for the free admission, these special promotions pretty much guarantee some excellent people-watching. And if you can’t make it to NYC in time, you can always content yourself with this Sex and the City episode.