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What Does the Giant Panda Cam, Agri-tourism, and Revitalization Have to do with the Government Shutd

Eastwick’s world is comprised of many types of industry; two, in particular, are tourism marketing and revitalization planning, both are being hit hard by the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Within tourism, the shutdown has meant closed parks and park tours, and increasing concern about air travel disruption. With the closing of the Department of Interior and the furlough of its employees, many national parks and monuments are closed and those that remain open have little or no staffing and no maintenance.

You may have seen some of the stories of vandalism, trash piles and toilets not maintained in the news. Not very visitor-friendly! Washington D.C. has been particularly hard hit with every Smithsonian Museum closed and the shuttering of the National Zoo with their popular giant panda cam.

Localities and local businesses are trying to keep some of the national parks open, the City of New York has kicked in operating funds to keep the Statue of Liberty open, and Visit Philly provided several days of funding to keep the Liberty Bell open during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday (but it has since shut down).

Recent estimates put the economic impact on tourism alone at $100 million per day (US Travel Association). The National Tour Association (tour operators, travel planners, and visitor destinations industry group) says that shutdown is impacting its members to the tune of $14 million as of early January. On the revitalization front, the shutdown of the USDA effects loans and grants that help thousands of communities and small businesses.

Air travel has only seen a limited impact to date, even though air traffic controllers and TSA staff are not being paid for working. However, Miami International Airport did have to shut down a concourse due to the shutdown. And, more and more TSA staff are calling in sick, increasing the chances that there will be delays in the near future.

Jonathan Grella, the US Travel Association executive vice president, said: “Travel supports $2.4 trillion in economic activity and one in nine American jobs and is a top-10 employer in 49 states, so any slowdown in that sector risks an economic cost that could be felt in every corner of the country.”.

What may not be as obvious is the financial impact this has on the businesses surrounding closed attractions and national parks like hotels, restaurants, retail shops, gas stations and more. Even street vendors and food trucks are suffering. Combine that with the fact that fewer visitors means less revenue, which means less tax revenue for local and state governments that represent significant dollars that are often used to offset residential taxes. The government shutdown is crippling our communities that depend on tourism.

On another front, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is closed. This impacts a significant source of funding for many, farmers and the agricultural industry. It means loans to is threatened. This hurts farmers and growers of all sizes and may also impact the burgeoning field of agri-tourism…a double whammy for working farmers who are diversifying the use of farms.

The impact of the shutdown on town revitalization efforts has seen less coverage. Nonetheless, the impact is being felt. The USDA also provides loans and grants to many communities that are used for various revitalization purposes like small business assistance and economic development projects. While these loans are limited to rural areas, the definition of rural includes places that you may not think are considered rural - like Pottsville and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is also shut down. SBA provides loans and loan guarantees as well as technical assistance for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Not having these loans available means fewer new small businesses opening and fewer small businesses expanding. These small businesses are often the backbone of many towns.

So, as this shutdown drags on, its impact is rippling across multiple sectors, with negative economic consequences for many places, people and businesses.

This is unprecedented with likely long-term impacts that may force changes in 2019 priorities and strategies. Let’s hope the shutdown ends soon so we can all get back to doing business!


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