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Southern Utah officials concerned by government shutdown’s impact on tourism

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Posted at 8:33 PM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-09 23:32:49-04

CEDAR CITY – County commissioners in Southern Utah are already beginning plans to target efforts to re-open national parks, something local leaders said is crippling the regional economy.

“We have lost revenues that are impacting businesses severely,” Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller said.

Monday Iron County, along with several other counties, issued a disaster declaration regarding the loss of tourism in the area.

Disaster declarations are typically made during natural disasters, and Miller said while the current financial crisis isn’t as dire; its effects are long reaching.

“Once tourism patterns are disrupted, it’s very difficult and expensive to return or to attract people back, get them to return to those areas they had set plans for,” Miller said.

Maria Twitchell is the executive director for the Cedar City/Brian Head Visitor’s Bureau. She said businesses, especially hotels, are losing thousands of dollars every week the parks remain inaccessible.

“It starts to add up,” Twitchell said. “In perspective, if a visitor spends $130 a day in a destination, and they’re not here to spend that, if you have 1,000 people, that would be $130,000 a day.”

Miller said they have worked with the National Park Service to re-open access to Cedar Breaks National Monument lookouts. While there aren’t any rangers, access to visitor’s centers, or restrooms—it’s something remaining tourists are grateful for as they try to not let the federal shutdown ruin their vacations.

“I can understand they can’t work without being paid,” said Fritz, who is a German tourist. “But really, to take such efforts to close all the roads. It’s getting a little annoying.”

The question that remains unanswered in all of this is: What can be done to prevent a further loss in tourism dollars?

Commissioners said they’re doing what they can through these disaster declarations to show politicians the real impact it’s having on small towns in the United States. Meanwhile, tourism directors said they’re just doing what they can to promote those alternative sites.