Road Warrior

Tourists hang in the balance as government mulls shutdown

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
The international arrivals terminal is viewed at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
Getty Images

Gerda Stoof was delighted last week to be looking up at the 60-foot-tall stone faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, South Dakota. She and her husband made a pit stop on their drive home from visiting new twin grandchildren in Ontario.

"I've heard about this all my life and have always wanted to see it," said Stoof, a native of Alberta, Canada. They were unaware that if they'd shown up a week later, the gates to the site of the iconic granite sculpture may have been locked.

That's because if Oct. 1 rolls around without the nation's lawmakers settling a budget for the new fiscal year, there may be a partial government shutdown that would affect the nation's more than 400 national parks and historic sites—including federal agencies that support tourism.

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If there is a partial shutdown, it would cost the U.S. travel sector at least $185 million per day in lost economic output, U.S. Travel Association economists estimate. That could also lead to the loss of 530,000 travel-related jobs due to temporary layoffs, reduced wages and fewer hours worked.

"Entire communities will be affected beyond our national parks, because hotels, attractions, restaurants and retail stores will also lose revenue," said Roger Dow, USTA president and CEO. "The growing perception, and what could soon be a reality, is that the U.S. simply won't be open for business late next week."