While few expected the federal government's recent shutdown
to cause the country to default, the hospitality industry heaved a great sigh of relief when Congress reached an agreement on Oct. 16.
"We estimate that every day the government was closed, America's economy lost about $152 million in travel-related activity that won't be recovered," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "After 16 days of shutdown, that totals more than $2.4 billion."
A number of government meetings were called off in the days following the shutdown on Oct. 1. According to Government Executive, canceled events included the Food and Drug Administration's meeting on medical devices for patients with heart failure; the Women's Health Review, held by the National Institutes of Health; a National Science Foundation meeting on synchrotron research, and an International Trade Commission meeting on U.S.-European Union barriers. The Society of Government Meeting Professionals' national capital chapter was forced to postpone its annual expo until February.
Forecasts from the Global Business Travel Association continue to show strong growth for 2014, but travel professionals have voiced concerns to the organization that the continued threat of shutdown and default could derail travel's surge.
"The business travel industry is a key driver of the U.S. economy," said Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of GBTA. "The recent shutdown couldn't have come at a worse time. Just as we are finally turning a corner, all of these gains were put at risk."
Added Dow, "The damage from the shutdown was further magnified by public perceptions both by American citizens and potential international travelers. While the end of the shutdown was welcome news, the compromise was temporary. A long-term solution from political leaders is needed that keeps the government operating so we don't find ourselves repeating this damaging story."
The travel and hospitality industries will be eyeing the federal government warily, again, in January, as the deal hammered out so bitterly in Congress only funds the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt limit through Feb. 7.