Across-the-board sequestration cuts for an array of federal government functions are beginning to take a toll on travel to and within the United States. And that means trouble for tourism, an NTA leader warns.
“NTA is very concerned that cutbacks in funding will have negative impacts on visitation, jobs, the U.S. economy and the balance of trade,” said Lisa Simon, president of NTA. “Tourism is an investment that produces jobs and revenue that support the rest of the U.S. economy, and these cuts can cause serious ripple effects.”
Simon added that the sequester cuts come at a bad time. In a recent survey, NTA members reported a rebound in 2012 business following a prolonged economic slowdown, and the majority of all members projected an even brighter 2013—tour operators (59 percent), suppliers (70 percent) and DMOs (74 percent).
Sequestration took effect on March 1, but the full impact of federal reductions in personnel hours and operating budgets continues to mount. NTA is most closely following cuts in five areas that directly impact tourism:
* FAA air traffic controllers: Furloughs began yesterday and flight delays started today.
* Transportation Security Administration personnel
* Customs and Border Protection officers at airports and border crossings
* consulate offices overseas, which process visas and conduct interviews
* federal parks and public lands, where staffing reductions will limit or delay access
Simon said NTA is also watching for increased fees at U.S. national parks, diverted operational funds for parks and public lands, and changes to funding for marketing the United States as an international destination.
“NTA will keep a close eye on how these issues impact the travel economy and our members’ livelihoods, and we will work with other travel organizations to inform Congress and the Obama administration about the significant, adverse effects of sequestration,” said Simon. “The travel sector must increase its efforts to help public policy makers understand the threat of reduced funding.”