Travel industry feels the sting of government shutdown

Travel industry feels the sting of government shutdown

Folks in the travel business are feeling the impact of the federal government shutdown, several told The Breeze this week.

At Collette Vacations in Pawtucket, representatives for the company pulled several departures from the company's 12-day National Parks of America and nine-day Canyon Country tours as a result of the shutdown, according to Maria Fruci, public relations specialist for the company. Collette officials were promising full refunds for some of the tours and sizable partial refunds for others.

And Conway Tours in Cumberland was on the verge at mid-week of cancelling its Oct. 11 trip to Washington, D.C., according to director of sales Kevin Higham.

Collette's Fruci said it's "too premature" to know the financial loss from the shutdown, as the company still has a number of departures scheduled over the coming weeks.

"On our other itineraries that include national parks and monuments, we have scheduled alternative excursions to maintain the integrity of the tour," said Fruci.

For example, on the 10-day Heritage of America tour, instead of visiting Shenandoah, travelers will spend an overnight in Charlottesville. A trip to the Hillwood Estate, a museum and gardens that chronicle the life and legacy of Marjorie Merriweather Post, will replace a visit to the Smithsonian.

"Changes to tour itineraries and further communication regarding other affected departures will occur within 48 hours prior to the scheduled service dates," she said. "We will communicate all changes as they become available and offer alternatives where necessary.

Fruci said company officials hope members of the U.S. government reach a resolution soon so vacations can commence as planned.

Conway's Higham told The Breeze that while many Americans are saying they're unaffected by the government shutdown, the impact on the travel industry "has been tragic."

For this Cumberland company's clients, there was some good news. Lucky scheduling meant several tours that would have been affected, including Mount Rushmore, were spared because they departed in early September.

"We were fortunate," Higham said.

But while substitutions were made for a trip that was to have included the Gettysburg battle field, Higham said there's just no way around the shutdowns at the nation's capital. Substitutions to the monuments and museums are impossible he said.

At the Comfort Inn in Pawtucket, Sales Manager Patti McAlpine had a better idea of how the shutdown might impact the city's only hotel in dollars and cents.

McAlpine said she had booked a new business for five rooms starting Oct. 6 and running all the way to Dec. 12. The company was hired under a government contract to do work at the Providence VA Medical Center. Last Friday a representative from the company called to cancel the rooms because the company received a stop work order from the federal government due to the shutdown. The potential revenue lost, according to McAlpine, is $20,915.50.

Representatives for Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien's administration were not aware this week of other city businesses and organizations that might be feeling the impact of the government shutdown.

- Ethan Shorey & Marcia Green