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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | October 11, 2013

On Oct. 10, the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging Association (ahla.com) sent a letter to President Barack Obama and all 535 members of the United States Congress drawing attention to the economic impact the federal government shutdown was having on the hotel industry, and pleading for a swift bipartisan resolution.

"For every day that passes that President Obama and Congress are not at the negotiating table seeking an end to this crisis, the American economy -- and the lodging industry -- continue to suffer," said Katherine Lugar, president and chief economic officer of AH&LA, in an official press release accompanying the letter sent to the White House. "Hoteliers are a major economic driver and job creator across the country, and the industry's ability to continue its growth is hamstrung by inaction from our policy makers."

When asked to elaborate on exactly how the shutdown was affecting its members, Vanessa Sinders, senior vice president and department head of government affairs for AH&LA, told the Hotel Insider that government meeting cancellations were only part of the overall business hotels are losing. In addition, the inability of business travelers to obtain visas, coupled with their uncertainty of the political situation, is affecting bookings. "Here in Washington, D.C., alone, occupancy rates are down 12 percent over the same period last year," Sinders said.

The AH&LA claims that hotels across the U.S. are losing more than $57.6 million in economic activity for each week the shutdown continues. In addition, Sinders noted, the federal government shutdown that resulted in the closure of national parks, including the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park, is wreaking havoc on leisure travel and affecting bookings for the upcoming Columbus Day weekend. "Tourists are canceling reservations at hotels near those parks, because they can't get into the parks, and there is no point in traveling to them," said Sinders. "The ripple effect of the loss of tourists impacts restaurants, retail shops and other businesses dependent on tourist dollars," she added, noting that the communities surrounding  those parks are seeing losses of $76 million per day in visitor spending.