ASTA said it is closely monitoring the government shutdown
and its effects on the travel industry, which have been minimal thus far.
However, the situation could worsen significantly if a resolution doesn't soon
come to pass.
"It's clear there's not a huge disruption to travel at
this point, which is good, but there are a number of things I think that have
started to bubble," said Eben Peck, ASTA's executive vice president of
advocacy. "If this continues for a long time, this is really going to
start to pinch."
ASTA's priority at the moment is keeping members up to date
on a number of things that could be affected by the shutdown. The Society is posting
updates on its website as
well as in its e-newsletter, Travel Advisor Daily.
"At least in the short term, basic functions related to
travel will continue unimpeded," a members-only update sent last Thursday
stated. "There will be some immediate impacts, however, including the
closure of national parks and federally-run museums, and the longer the
shutdown persists the greater the likelihood of negative consequences for the
ASTA is also having conversations with members of Congress,
talking about the impacts of the shutdown on the travel industry.
In an interview on Tuesday, Peck said the most immediate
impact is on national parks. Some are open with staff, some are open without staff
and some are closed.
"If you're a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast near a big
national park, you're probably feeling the pain right now," he said.
Travel adviser Caroline Bach Wood, an affiliate of Travel
Experts, is a national parks specialist. Wood said national park travelers
during the holidays were largely unaffected because hotels and
concessionaire-operated services were open. The biggest impact was the lack of
interpretive staff at visitors centers.
"We are now entering the busiest booking window of the
year, and based on the number of requests I'm receiving, I would say travelers
believe the shutdown will end before their spring and summer trips will begin,"
cautioned that a lengthy shutdown would have far-reaching impacts.
"I think if this
doesn't get resolved soon, travelers will lose confidence, in which case it
will have a huge negative impact on my business as well as that of guides,
hotels, restaurants and other services that thrive on national park visitation,"
Outside of national
parks, Peck said, ASTA is tracking reports of Global Entry enrollments being
halted and interviews canceled.
The Society is also tracking news surrounding the TSA, whose
workers are deemed essential and therefore must continue to do their jobs without pay until the shutdown ends.
While the number of worker call-outs have increased since the shutdown started,
airports said the impact on security lines is relatively small at this point.
"But you wonder, if this drags on for three, four or
five weeks, people working without pay -- that's going to probably impact
staffing," Peck said.
"If airport security screening operations are really
impacted, that could cause people to start canceling trips," Peck
With some 800,000 federal employees affected by the
shutdown, he added, "it's going to have an economic impact on our industry
"You can't forget that this is 800,000 people who
presumably travel a couple times a year, and if they're not getting a paycheck
or they have to go and find a new job, we know that in many cases travel is
discretionary spend for your budget. That may start getting impacted,"
Passport processing is going on as usual, Peck said, because
it is funded by passport application fees, not federal funds.