Shutdown Update: DC Hotels Report Fewer Bookings & Other News

Jan 21, 2019

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The partial government shutdown, now in its 31st day, is well beyond being the longest in US history. And while furloughed government workers, airports and national parks have been bearing the brunt of it — it turns out the American hotel industry has been taking a hit as well. Hotels in Washington, DC, specifically.

According to Travel Pulse, March is DC’s “busy season” due mostly to a steady stream of government contractors visiting the city to pitch goods and services to federal agencies, in addition to warmer weather and the beginning of cherry blossom season attracting tourists to the surrounding national parks. But since the impasse between Congress and the White House (and the fact that there is still no end in sight for compromise), DC hotels haven’t been seeing the usual influx of bookings.

Bloomberg reported that this is likely due to the travelers that usually book blocks of rooms in advance could be looking for alternative options instead of waiting to see if the government reopens.

“You don’t go to Disney if the rides are closed,” Jane Freitag, a senior vice president at lodging data provider STR, said. “Events organized by the government or by groups doing business with the government will be postponed or not happen. School groups that had bake sales to fund a trip aren’t going to come.”

Furthermore, with TSA wait times at airports still precarious, tourists and government contractors are less likely to seek traveling until the shutdown ends. This would cause a decrease in hotel bookings, which could result in hotels sending home or letting go of staff.

“We believe investors (and hotel operators) likely continue to underestimate the demand impact of the partial government shutdown, and we expect the shutdown to become more impactful over time,” Michael Bellisario, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., wrote in a Jan. 16 research note, reported by Bloomberg.

In Other Government Shutdown News:

  • TSA calls for back up as callout rates rise

With the number of TSA agents calling out sick increasing to 10%* nationwide, officers that usually help with staffing shortages during natural disasters are being called in to cover the absences of the airport screeners.

These back up agents, part of the TSA’s National Deployment Force, have been sent to several major airports so far, including Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

TSA spokesperson James Gregory told CNBC in an email that “there are limited resources available, and our ability to reinforce airports with National Deployment Officers is becoming more difficult.” However, the TSA declined to comment on the total number of replacement officers it plans on deploying to airports.

  • Bon Jovi Restaurant serves furloughed workers for free

Jon Bon Jovi’s New Jersey restaurant announced on Facebook that it will be providing free meals to furloughed government workers and their families on Monday between 12pm and 2pm.

The event at JBJ Soul Kitchen is due to a partnership between New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s organization, the Phil and Tammy Murphy Family Foundation. They will also be providing workers with access to additional support and resources to help them get through the unpaid period.

  • The Met Opera is offering free tickets to unpaid federal employees

If you’re a furloughed employee looking for some free entertainment, The Metropolitan Opera is offering free tickets to people with government IDs from Saturday through the end of the month.

Currently, the Met is running 12 different operas. Including Bizet’s “Carmen,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande,” Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur” and a double bill of Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” and Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle.”  Tickets can be reserved ahead of time by telephone or redeemed at the box office upon arrival.

*This post has been updated to reflect the most recent rate of TSA officers calling out of work. A previous version of this story said 8% of officers were calling out sick.

Featured image by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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