U.S Shutdown Ruins Long Standing Tourist Plans - Insights

U.S Shutdown Ruins Long Standing Tourist Plans

Tourists across the United States were turned away from some of the most popular attractions the country has to offer — museums, parks and historical sights forced to shut down because Congress has failed to agree on a budget bill.

Many visitors saw the shutdown ruin long-standing plans to visit places such as the museums that hold national treasures and the national parks that safeguard places of natural beauty such as Grand Canyon.

In San Francisco, tourists lining up to visit the former prison on Alcatraz Island — including many international visitors — were frustrated to find out they were being offered another type of cruise of the San Francisco Bay or a refund.

"I come from Italy, and we have our political problems there for sure, but nothing like this," said Michael Rossi, who was visiting the city on a business trip.

"What kind of crazy country is this?" asked Bettina Turan, a student from Duesseldorf, Germany. "What does it mean that the government is shutting down? I just don't understand." Alcatraz, which welcomed more than 287 million visitors last year, was shut Tuesday along with hundreds of other parks run by the National Park Service.

The closures of parks, museums and other federally funded sites across the US were some of the most visible effects of a government shutdown caused by a political impasse between Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama's Democrats.

Tourists in Washington, DC, were left standing in front of all 19 museums belonging to the Smithsonian Institution — from the space museum housing US achievements in flight and galleries holding the country's art collection to the national zoo and monuments on the National Mall.

The National World War Two Memorial is one of the most prominent of those monuments. The open-air attraction is ordinarily open 24 hours a day, but on Tuesday it was ringed by a barricade. A group of veterans who had planned for weeks to visit it — including some in wheelchairs — were not deterred.

They defiantly pushed barricade aside and went in.

Republicans accused the Obama administration of putting up the barricade to maximize the effect of the shutdown.

"They put a barricade around it so that you couldn't even walk through it," said Representative Mike Simpson. "Does that sound to you like they want to make this as painful as they possibly could?"

But Representative James Moran, a Democrat, said the barriers were set up because the shutdown meant there were no guards to protect it.

Mark Mafelisa, a tourist from Reno, Nevada, saw his plan to do a tour of the US Capitol scuppered and there was little hope that it could be rescheduled.

He planned to stay in Washington for a couple more days and take pictures of buildings, then head to New York.

"Maybe they are doing better in New York," he said.

But even in New York, its most popular attractions were closed because of the shutdown — the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and a few of its history museums among them.

"I think you tend to lose trust in a nation that cannot even open its national parks anymore," said Alexander Thul of Cologne, Germany. "I mean, it's the US … and you can't go to the Statue of Liberty because they don't have money to open that up? It's kind of a mess."

Viviane Pajot, a visitor from France, found another cruise to take when she found out the statue was closed. She and her companion, Nathalie Krynsen, could only take pictures of it from afar.

"Too bad that we didn't get to see the statue," Krynsen said.

Ayanna Haynes, who works for the private company authorized to take tourists to the islands, said the boats can't get close to the statue because it's patrolled by police.

She said she feels bad when she has to explain to visitors from outside the US that they can't visit the statue.

"It's kind of hard to explain to everybody why we're not able to (take them on the cruise) because they are either confused how the government is shut down or they are disappointed that they are unable to go," she said.

Source: Hotel-Online

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