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AAA supports efforts to keep parks, monuments open with state dollars

As the nation settles into the second week of the federal shutdown, the associated closure of nearly 400 national parks and monuments across the country is turning away more than 700,000 visitors each day.

Notwithstanding the broader political environment in which these discussions are taking place, it is important to understand that the pain felt by hundreds of thousands of tourism employees and travelers in Arizona is especially acute.

As a membership organization that acts as an advocate for the traveling public, AAA Arizona is extremely concerned about the effect this shutdown is having on travelers and the nearly 200,000 employees in the tourism sector.

The closure of the state’s nearly 30 national parks and monuments, especially the Grand Canyon, is harming businesses and communities whose financial stability depends on tourism dollars. As a state that relies heavily on the tourism industry as a source of economic vitality, it is deeply troubling to consider the revenue being lost as thousands of visitors now are being turned away or are canceling their fall trips due to these closures.

As one of the most visited attractions in the country, the closure of the Grand Canyon alone is resulting in huge financial losses to the private and public sectors that count on these tourists for their livelihood. To put this in perspective, the park welcomed 4.3 million visitors who spent more than $467 million while visiting our state in 2011.

In support of the tourism industry and on behalf of our more than 840,000 members in the state, AAA Arizona supports the efforts proposed to keep the park open with state dollars.

Until the federal government can come to an agreement to end the shutdown, we are urging the federal government to accept the negotiation to re-open the Grand Canyon and also to consider re-opening all national parks.

This compromise will allow travelers across the country once again to enjoy the various treasures our state has to offer and end the suffering felt by hundreds of thousands of people who depend on this industry for their very way of life.

Mike Tully, president/CEO, AAA Arizona.

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(Photo by Ellen O'Brien)

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