Travel plans canceled because of shutdown? How about a refund?

Access to Switzer Picnic Area is prohibited in the Angeles National Forest on October 2, 2013 in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles, Calif.

It is now day three of the government shutdown. Among the 800,000 federal employees furloughed are the people who run this country’s national parks, which are closed.

So if you were planning on flying to Arizona this weekend to take a donkey ride through the Grand Canyon, or maybe jet off to Wyoming to watch Old Faithful do its predictable dance in Yellowstone, you might want to call the airline. Some are offering refunds in the form of vouchers.

“It just allows the customer to take the trip later without getting gauged for a change fee. But the airline still keeps the money,” says Michael Boyd, an airline consultant with the Boyd group.

It’s unlikely that that airlines will see a substantial loss in revenue because there aren’t a lot of tourists traveling this time of year. The exception is Washington D.C. airports. Boyd says a prolonged shutdown could cause a 20 percent drop in D.C. air traffic. 

“That’s the gateway to get  inside the beltway. Since the beltway is closed, you are going to have people canceling trips,” says Boyd.

On the other side of the country, just outside of Yosemite National Park, Peggy Mosley is the innkeeper at the Groveland Motel. She says business is slower than normal because of the shutdown. “Our employees don’t get paid when we don’t have guests.”

Mosley had seen her business drop dramatically after the August Rim Fire. Many of her employees had to file for unemployment as a result. She was expecting a rebound, as tourists came to see huge fields of wildflowers that typically bloom after a fire.

Instead, with the park closed, she has fewer hours to offer her employees.

“They are eating out of the local food bank. Their water and their propane are getting turned off. It is an incredibly difficult time for our employees right now,” says Mosley.

The national parks themselves are offering refunds to park visitors.

The U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism was unable to respond to my request for an interview. It's closed as a result of the shutdown.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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