Watching Old Faithful erupt from the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the largest concessioner in the U.S. National Parks system, operating hotels, restaurants, tours, and vendors in 21 national parks, including Yellowstone, Zion, Death Valley, Crater Lake, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Now, the company is losing millions of dollars thanks to the U.S. government shutdown, which shuttered all "non-essential" federal services, including U.S. national parks.
Betsy O'Rourke, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Xanterra, said that this shutdown is costing Xanterra about a million dollars per day in revenue—and that's not including operating costs or the impact of future losses based on customers losing confidence in the company.
"This is a busy time for us and has a huge economic impact," O'Rourke said. "Most of our lodges are sold out this time of year. It's a very very sad day with a significant impact. A lot of economic loss over politics."
By tonight, all guests who were staying inside a National Park hotel will be gone and the hotels will be officially closed. Guests who were already inside the hotels were given 48 hours to leave, while new arrivals were forced to find alternate accommodations outside the parks.
O'Rourke said that the company is refunding customers on a day-by-day basis, since it's difficult to gauge how long the shutdown will last. They're making attempts to rebook customers but are finding that many people are hesitant to rebook since they don't know when the shutdown will end and parks will re-open.
Even worse is the fact that many people's dream trips are ruined. People spend years planning their trips to national parks, traveling from all over the world to visit them. And reservations at top lodges within some parks are hard to come by. Xanterra starts accepting reservations 13 months in advance at its hotels—a necessity in some of their most popular resorts, like the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park and El Tovar in the Grand Canyon.
"When people come to our properties, these are bucket list trips," O'Rourke said. "They're once-in-a-lifetime trips. And it's not just people from the U.S. We have people who come in from all over the world. Right now we have calls coming in from travel agents in the U.K., all over Europe, and Asia, asking about what they should do. It's terrible."
And it's not just guests who are affected by the park closures. This time of year, Xanterra has about 3,500 employees working in the parks who are all forced to stay home. But the Xanterra employees are lucky compared to National Park employees, who are going without pay during this time. Xanterra is continuing to pay its full-time salaried employees, despite the park closures.
With a loss of a million dollars per day, there's no denying that Xanterra is feeling the devastating impact of the shutdown.
"We're keeping our website up to date, so as we learn things we'll update our site," O'Rourke said. "We're doing that primarily so that anyone who had bookings with us can understand that they'll get refunds. But our phones are ringing off the hook and this is having a significant economic impact. Let's hope it ends soon."
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