Global Politics

How will the National Parks be affected by the shutdown?

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Illustration: Manya Gupta

It was Yosemite National Park’s 123rd anniversary Tuesday. But, barring a Google doodle, there was little to celebrate as all national parks were closed following the government shutdown.

Visitors have been turned away, while the others already camping have been asked to leave and make alternative arrangements. The potential financial loss incurred by these institutions could potentially be huge. And it's not just the loss of revenue from domestic visitors, there is a large proportion of international tourists that visit the national parks across US annually.

One study suggests that approximately 19 percent of international tourists visit national parks and that they are more likely to use services such as hotels, car rentals, and spend on other activities.

Fall is a prime tourism season with a lot of people coming to see fall foliage and participate in festivities such as cherry picking, or visits to apple orchards etc. I was intrigued to do some research and get a little data on the adverse effect of a government shutdown on park tourism.

As I dug in, I found that after the 28-day partial government shutdown in 1995-96 during the Clinton administration, there were studies conducted to determine the losses suffered to the economy. I used the collective data for national parks from that period and used an inflation calculator to get the corresponding data for 2013.

Also, since the data available was for a period of 28 days, I performed basic division to get the estimated per day loss in the current shutdown. Additionally, I also used some data that was available from April 2011, when there were fears of a shutdown, which was avoided by a last minute deal in the Congress. I used the same inflation calculator in this case as well to get a projection for what we might expect this go around.

The above graphic was created putting all the data together to present a rough estimate of the loss of tourism that may be suffered by the national parks across the US. 

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