The government shutdown, which has been the longest in United States history, is affecting travel significantly. One positive is the decrease in traffic in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, but this is the only positive. TSA agents and air traffic controllers have been calling in sick, resulting in missed and canceled flights. Missed and canceled flights affect the Hotel and Tourism industry, which is one of the most significant parts of the United States economy, generating about $1.6 trillion in U.S. economic activity. This adds up to roughly one-twelfth of the United States economy. Not to mention that one in 20 jobs, according to the Commerce Department is in this industry. Macroeconomic Advisers say that they expect the United States economy to expand at just a 1.4 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year, down from its previous forecast of 1.6 percent, because of reduced government spending during the shutdown. In the Washington area, including its nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, hotel revenue plunged 26 percent in the second week of January compared with the same period last year, according to STR, a travel research firm. That's much steeper than the 8 percent decline that occurred nationwide.
One of the most prominent effects of the government shutdown is the suffering of airlines. Some United States based airlines are taking massive hits due to missed flights and slower TSA lines. For example, Delta said this week that the shutdown would cost $25 million in January because fewer federal employees and contractors will be flying. But the airlines fear that if the shutdown doesn't end soon, more TSA agents will call in sick or quit. A shortage of screeners would cause security lines to swell. Air traffic controllers, who are also working without pay, say they, too, are short-staffed. If the controller shortage became severe enough, the government could restrict the number of flights, though some analysts think that's unlikely. This cycle has gone on since the beginning of the shutdown and has left airlines all alone trying to repair the damage.
The shutdown has also severely affected flyers as they have to leave extra early to make flights. One traveler at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said that she had “a 3 o'clock flight, and arrived at 10:15 a.m.,” Many people are missing flights because of long security lines or canceled flights. This once again ties back into the severe blow to the tourism and hotel industry.
This problem has been a very big one for the tourism and travel industries. However, in the end, the tourism and travel industry will continue to be affected unless something is done to stop the government shutdown.