Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightIf I were a tour operator with domestic itineraries that include national parks, museums and monuments, I would have been pretty peeved about the government shutdown. Politics aside, once again tour operators were left bearing the burden of a crisis they had little or no influence or control over.

Operators large and small recounted nightmare stories of having to reroute passengers around national parks, museums and monuments that were closed due to the shutdown, forcing them to throw what little margins they have at the problem in order to keep their guests happy. And what recourse do they have?

Given the losses suffered by countless operators, Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, went to Capitol Hill to ask Congress to help the travel industry.

Michelle Baran"Neither NTA nor its tour operator members were advised about what park units would be closed during the shutdown," Simon said before an Oct. 16 joint hearing of House committees on Oversight & Government Reform and Natural Resources.

Simon asked that going forward the government better communicate plans that would so severely impact the industry.

If Congress hears her cries, it will only help tour operators going forward. It won't help operators that have had to spend thousands of dollars (if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars) to untangle itinerary messes caused by the federal government's 16-day shutdown.

But somehow, tour operators see a silver lining. When talking with them about the shutdown, there was a certain pride emerging from operators' stories as they told of how they innovated to save potentially doomed vacations.

You can almost hear the adrenaline rush as operators tell of the creativity their operations teams employed when confronted with a closed national park or monument. They start to talk faster when they narrate tales of hidden gems uncovered in the midst of crisis. A beautiful state park here, a great hotel there, a fun alternative activity elsewhere.

I don't know if it makes the frustration any less, but it would appear that overcoming adversity, and being able to put smiles on faces despite it, is what makes it all -- mostly -- worth it.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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