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Shutdown: How would a government shutdown affect travel?

10:19 PM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: National Parks closed in shutdown

Video: Shutdown Will Close National Parks, Museums, National Zoo

This file photo shows Mei Xiang, the female giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington. The zoo would be closed to visitors in the event of a government shutdown. (Photo: Susan Walsh AP)

A federal government shutdown could put a damper on people's vacation plans.

If the government shuts down on Oct. 1, tourists would not be able to enter the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty and other attractions run by the National Park Service.

Travelers already camping in national parks would have two days to leave.

In Washington, D.C., all 19 museums and galleries run by the Smithsonian Institution as well as the National Zoo would be shuttered.

"We must close, and federal employees are not permitted to work," says Linda St.Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution.

Air travel will likely not be effected as air traffic controllers and airport screeners will continue to work.

"At this point, we do not expect airline operations to be impacted," says Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, which represents the industry.

She says the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection have told the group "that front-line employees would not be subject to shutdown-related furloughs that would affect the traveling and shipping public."

Airlines too say they expect business to continue as usual.

"We do not anticipate any impact to our operations as a result of the potential shutdown, as it will not affect the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and/or the air traffic control system," says Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King.

Amtrak, which relies on federal subsidies, says it will operate as normal.

"Amtrak will continue normal operation of its national intercity and high-speed passenger rail network in the event of a short-term federal government shutdown," Amtrak said in a statement. "Passengers planning to travel on Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor and across the country in the coming days and weeks can be assured that Amtrak will remain open for business."

For those wanting to travel internationally, the U.S. State Department will continue to issue passports and visas because funding for those services comes from fees rather than appropriations, says U.S. State Department spokeswoman Laura Seal.

The one caveat is that some passport offices are located in federal buildings that would have to shut down. She advises travelers to call their local passport office before showing up.

U.S. embassies and consulates around the world will remain open, she says. "American citizens overseas will continue to get support," she says.

Tourism officials in various cities point out that there will be plenty for travelers to do even if the government shuts down.

Although travelers can't climb up the Statue of Liberty, they can still see it from the water. Statue Cruises will still be operating from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily. The Staten Island Ferry will continue to run every 30 minutes and pass by the statue.

"Any closure of our National Parks would be disappointing to some travelers, but we do not foresee it creating a major impact on New York City tourism," says George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, the city's official tourism authority. "Visitors will choose other things to see and do and there's plenty to offer across the five boroughs including marquee attractions, Broadway theaters, world-class museums, delicious restaurants, shops and more."

In the nation's capital, there are many private museums that will remain open, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Newseum and the International Spy Museum.

"Unfortunately, this is not the first time we've dealt with a potential shutdown, but the reality is, there are so many things that are still viable options in Washington," says Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC.

Those assurances haven't stopped Devin Wise from canceling her Oct. 18 trip to D.C. for her 23rd birthday.

She and her boyfriend planned to drive to the nation's capital from just outside of Philadelphia.

"We had an entire itinerary planned out, which included all of the big tourist attractions, but most importantly I wanted to go to the Smithsonian," she says. "I don't want my first trip to D.C. to be a constant reminder of how polarized our country has become."

 

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