by Lisa A. Grimaldi | October 02, 2013
Business travel and meetings are among the casualties of the federal government shutdown that went into effect yesterday. As Rob Bergeron, executive director of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, told M&C: "This shutdown is absolutely affecting SGMP members. Sequestration was already impacting their positions and meetings, but this brings our industry's challenges to another level." He added, "Since most government meeting planners are nonexempt, they have now been placed on furlough status starting today; a large number of our members must stop working indefinitely without any indication of how or if retroactive pay will be involved in a subsequent deal." Bergeron also pointed that the shutdown not only affects planners, but SGMP's supplier members. "The terrible impact these unfortunate realities will have on the national economy cannot be overlooked," he said.

The Global Business Travel Association also is concerned about the effects of an extended federal shutdown on the economy and international events. In a statement issued yesterday, Michael W. McCormick, GBTA's executive director and COO, said, "America's economy can't grow without a reliable system supporting business travel. U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach more than $273 billion this year, finally surpassing pre-recession levels. But a government shutdown will have rippling effects through the economy and severely impact the business travel industry." Noting that the government's inability to issue passports and visas leads to canceled trips and lost business opportunities, McCormick warned that "Every business trip canceled results in permanently lost travel industry revenues, decreased future employment rates and lost economic benefit to our country."

If the shutdown is extended, McCormick said, overseas businesses will lose confidence and put U.S. investment plans on hold. "The international community will reconsider decisions to grow business here and whether to hold meetings and conferences in U.S. cities that rely on that economic benefit."

In a letter to constituents of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, executive director Greeley Koch said, "My fear is that while the U.S. Congress is digging trenches on Capitol Hill, they could be digging a hole for businesses as well… Our industry is making a long and slow comeback from a weak economy. It would not take much to reverse the gains made by the airlines and hospitality industry now."