There’s no good time for a government shutdown, but Congress chose to shut things down during the primetime for fall outdoor recreation.
Leaf peepers and wildlife viewers are being shut out of their favorite national parks, and the flood-ravaged communities surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park, in particular, are finding it even tougher to recover.
Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, the effect on outdoor retail business could be significant.
“It’s going to be a ripple effect,” said Kirk Bailey, the Outdoor Industry Association’s vice-president of government affairs. The shutting down of national parks and monuments will cause an effect first in the outfitters and tour guides, then as people cancel their trips, outdoor retailers will begin to feel the sting. The longer it lasts, the harder the sting.
Eventually “It will ripple through retailers as consumers who were thinking about a trip say, ‘I guess I’m not going so I don’t have to buy that extra water bottle or extra shirt I needed for my trip. I’m not going to make that purchase,’” Bailey said.
Glacier Outdoor Center, which is both a retailer and a tour guide near Glacier National Park, has begun to feel the sting already. Co-owner Jeff Baldelli told SNEWS that the season for rafting and fishing tours had already shutdown but the lodging near the park, which is open until November, is generally full this time of year but isn't right now.
Government workers doing research in the park rent out a few cabins for the entire month, Baldelli said, but after Tuesday’s news all of them called to cancel their month-long reservations.
“It’s definitely affecting us,” Baldelli said. “You’re really just hurting local businesses,” he'd like to say to Congress. “We understand that there’s an agenda that has to be moved forward, and each side has their own reasons for doing what they’re doing, but they need to get a handle on things and realize that at some point they’re going to have to work together to figure stuff out.”
Outdoor writer Michael Lanza reports, "closing the national parks means turning away 750,000 visitors nationwide every day, costing tourism-dependent businesses near parks $30 million a day, according to the National Parks Conservation Association." Lanza writes in this story about his his having to tell his kids there would be no hiking this week in Zion National Park thanks to the shutdown.
“It’s important that everybody in the outdoor community pays attention and does something about it,” Bailey said. “Even if it’s just a phone call to their member of Congress to say, 'Please pass the budget.' Something as simple as that might be helpful.”
Americans spend more on outdoor recreation than they do on pharmaceuticals, cars and gas for those cars,OIA reports. If they can’t get out into their favorite now blocked-off national parks to do their thing, they might not spend the $646 billion they’ve been shown to spend on outdoor recreation.
Bailey urges industry folks to call up their members of Congress.
“I know people in their lives and businesses are busy,” Bailey said. “This situation is not going to get any better unless all of us hold accountable our elected officials. Ultimately it rests on our shoulders.”