Shutdown shoots down travel plans

Updated: 2013-10-03 11:05

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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China's National Dayon Oct 1 marked the start of domestic and overseas tourism's GoldenWeekfor many Chinese, but tough luck for anyone thinking about celebrating it with a tour in the US. Thanks to the US federal government's partial shutdown, all national parks, monuments and zoos have been closed from Tuesday until further notice.

"It is so ironic that Yosemite National Park celebrates its 123rd birthday by shutting down today, which disappointed so many tourists who planned their visit there months ago," said Jerry Pan, a Chinese traveler from Silicon Valley.

Pan's wife had just flown over from Shanghai and met him at Yosemite to celebrate their anniversary.

"It has disrupted our ideal travel plans and ruined our family vacation," he said.

 Shutdown shoots down travel plans

A DC policeman checks the locks on a gate at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden on Tuesday afternoon. Sun Chenbei / China Daily

"Bad luck!" said a Chinese traveler named Zhang who had come with his wife from Guangzhou for a 10-day tour in the US. "My wife and I are pathetically wandering around outside the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park right now."

They had paid for flights from San Francisco to Las Vegas with a three-day stop at Yellowstone starting Oct 1.

"We've lost $2,000, not to mention the precious travel time," he said. "We are staying here for three days, but we have nothing to do! As foreign travelers, we never imagined a US federal government shutdown would influence the national parks." He said he had seen Chinese tourists arguing with tour guides to get their deposits back.

"The current federal government shutdown has come with immediate impacts on our national parks, public lands and overall tourism economy," said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California, in a statement released on Tuesday. Visit California is a non-profit organization to develop and maintain marketing programs for California's travel industry.

"Visitors to and travelers throughout California spend $292 million each day, $12.1 million every hour, or $202,000 every minute. Our national parks, public lands and surrounding gateway areas are major contributors to these figures and the effects of this shutdown will be felt immediately in these communities," she said.

"We look forward with hope and anticipation to a speedy resolution so these communities and the California tourism industry as a whole can continue to assist in the country's economic recovery," she said.

For many local travel agencies catering to Chinese travelers, the stop at Yosemite has been replaced with a day tour at 17 Miles, a California attraction on the Coastal Highway, a travel agency customer service rep named Jessica told China Daily on Tuesday.

She said they also changed the Grand Canyon's tour route in Colorado from the southern to the western entrance, where tourists had to pay an extra $80 for ticket.

"We heard that the national parks' shutdown might not last too long," she said.

"We just paid for an advertisement in a local Chinese language newspaper in California to promote a tour package to Yosemite, which has to be canceled now," another agency's customer service rep named Xu said on Tuesday. "The good news is that customers just read our advertisement in Sunday's newspaper, so we don't have much of an economic loss."

Shutdown shoots down travel plans 

A pedestrian strolls by a deserted Museum of Natural History on the National Mall in DC on Tuesday. Sun Chenbei / China Daily

(China Daily USA 10/03/2013 page1)