Bryce Canyon businesses say ‘it’s hurting bad;’ impact of government shutdown, alternatives for tourists

Locked out of the national park, tourists walk to a privately-owned piece of land set along the canyon's rim to get a view of Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Rudy's Inn, St. George News

BRYCE CANYON – Bryce Canyon City and Tropic are two of the towns where visitors came to stay while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon National Park is among the 401 national parks across the country that have been closed thanks to the government shutdown.

The shutdown comes at a very inopportune time for local hotels and tourism-related businesses as a whole since late September to mid-October is a peak-season for them.

The message that greets those visiting the National Park Service websites, Oct. 3, 2013 | Image courtesy of NPS.gov
The message that greets those visiting the National Park Service websites, Oct. 3, 2013 | Image courtesy of NPS.gov | Click to enlarge

Our area is a seasonal economy,” said Tyler Brinkerhoff, owner of the Bryce Canyon Inn in Tropic. The closure of the park came at the worst time for Brinkerhoff and others who rely on revenue generation from visitors to the national park. “It’s the height of our season.”

We’re very dependent on these weeks,” said Ron Harris, a member of the Best Western Ruby’s Inn management team, located in Bryce Canyon City which sits close to the national park. “We’ve seen a lot of cancellations. It’s hit hard.”

Ruby’s Inn General Manager Lance Syrett said many of the tourists who visit Bryce Canyon and other parks during the fall tend to be seniors from across the globe. Some save for years to be able to visit the area, Syrett said, and now they have to adjust their travel plans.

It’s devastating to our foreign tourists who have no idea what’s going on,” Harris said.

It makes the United States look bad in the eyes of the international community, Brinkerhoff said. “Its a joke and a farce.”

In other tourism-heavy communities like Springdale, which sits at the mouth of Zion National Park, locals have begun to direct tourists to nearby areas they may be able to visit. The same is happening around Bryce Canyon.

Syrett said Ruby’s Inn owns a piece of property that overlooks Bryce Canyon and they have been shuttling hotel guests to the area, as well as making suggestions to visit nearby state parks and sightseeing areas not closed by the shutdown.

Locked out of the national park, tourists walk to a privately-owned piece of land set along the canyon's rim to get a view of Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Rudy's Inn, St. George News
Locked out of the national park, tourists walk to a privately-owned piece of land set along the canyon’s rim to get a view of Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Ruby’s Inn, St. George News

Alternative areas to visit near Bryce Canyon City that both Syrett and Harris mentioned include:

Still, tourists from across the nation and the globe primarily visit the area for Bryce Canyon National Park, Brinkerhoff said.

If the shutdown doesn’t last too much longer, Syrett said things may still turn out OK; but if it persists, Ruby’s Inn may be required to start laying people off. Ruby’s Inn and its associated businesses and services also happens to be one of the biggest employers in Garfield County.

Harris said the hotel employs around 600 people at its busiest. He estimated over 500 were currently working during the fall season.

Syrett said the revenue made during the fall season helps get the hotel through the next six months until tourism picks up again. Only three days into the shutdown, he said: “Its’ hurting, and it’s hurting bad.” The hotel has already lost an estimated $150,000.

Between Ruby’s Inn and its associations properties, the company has experienced over 1,500 cancellations since Sept. 30, which Harris estimated to have cost the company $50,ooo thus far. However, with a potential loss of last-minute bookings and walk-in business, that amount could be as high as $300,000 in lost room revenue.

As the shutdown lingers, Ruby’s Inn could end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, Harris added.

I feel for those who work in the park,” Harris said, noting the private businesses that run concession venues within the park proper.

View of Bryce Canyon National Park as seen from the property owned by Rudy's Inn that sits along the rim of the canyon, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Rudy's Inn, St. George News
View of Bryce Canyon National Park as seen from the property owned by Ruby’s Inn that sits along the rim of the canyon, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Ruby’s Inn, St. George News

Harris and Brinkerhoff also had words considering the political side of the shutdown.

We have to be responsible with our money,” Brinkerhoff said, so why can’t the government be responsible with the money the taxpayers send it?

Brinkerhoff noted the incident in Washington, D.C., where World War II veterans ignored the shutdown and bypassed the barricades at the World War II Veterans Memorial. “I’d like to see that happen here,” he said.

Put the politics aside,” Harris said, “this political blame game is ridiculous.”

The government shutdown was triggered Tuesday morning as a result of Congress failing to pass a spending resolution in place of having an actual budget.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a spending resolution that also postponed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and stripped Congress of its ACA exemptions. When sent to the Democrat-controlled Senate, the resolution was rejected due to the ACA-related legislation attached, thus leading to a government shutdown and a grandiose sparring contest between the House and the Senate.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Locked out of the national park, tourists walk to a privately-owned piece of land set along the canyon's rim to get a view of Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Rudy's Inn, St. George News
Locked out of the national park, tourists walk to a privately-owned piece of land set along the canyon’s rim to get a view of Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct. 2, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Ruby’s Inn, St. George News

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