Shutdown Generates $2.2 Billion Loss for States with National Landmarks

Oct 18, 2013
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National Landmark Closures Hurt State Tourism

Although the National Park Service represents less than 1% of the federal budget, it had a large impact on states during the federal shutdown, during which it closed parks, memorials and monuments across the country. For many states, these national landmarks generate considerable tourism revenues as they draw millions of visitors each year. Recently, California and Utah used their own funds to keep parks such as Yosemite and Arches open for business in an attempt to stem the economic losses resulting from their closure.

Using visitor data from the National Park Service and state tourism reports, NerdWallet Taxes has estimated the economic impact of lost tourism in those states with the greatest number of national landmarks affected by the 16 day government shutdown.


Arizona is home to 21 national landmarks, most notably Grand Canyon. Because these landmarks are high tourist draws, we estimate that Arizona lost roughly $205 million in the shutdown.


The Golden State has the highest number of national landmarks (27) and is home to Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks. California earned $106 billion in tourism revenues for 2011, which we projected would grow by 2.5% year to $112 billion by 2013. California also attracted the lion’s share of visitors in 2011 (229 million), which we estimated would increase to 238 million by 2013. Based on historical data, we estimated that on average visitors to California would spend $470, translating to tourism losses of $648 million thanks to the shutdown.

Washington, D.C.

D.C. is home to the nation’s greatest number of monuments and memorials, most notably the Lincoln, Vietnam, Martin Luther King and Korean War Memorials. Between 2003 and 2011, tourism has increased on average by 2.2% per year. As of 2011, visitors to D.C. spent $337 per trip, which we projected would increase slightly to $340 per trip by 2013. Unfortunately, positive trends in tourism mean considerable losses for D.C. as the memorials and monuments were shut down. Had the landmarks been open, we estimate that D.C. could have raked in $474 million in tourism revenues.

New York

The National Park Service is responsible for 21 historic sites, parks, recreational rivers and monuments within New York state. Every year, thousands of school children visit the Statue of Liberty monument, New York City’s icon. We estimate that roughly 266,000 tourists would have visited New York state’s national landmarks in the first two weeks of October during the shutdown. Based on historic figures, tourists to New York spend on average $1,000 per trip, translating to lost revenues of $306 million during the shutdown.


Virginia is home to many of the nation’s preeminent Civil War remnants, including four battlefields and the Robert E. Lee memorial. Virginia traditionally has a strong tourist industry; in 2011 visitors spent  $21.2 billion. We estimate that it lost $608 million as a result of the closure of its national landmarks.


Tourism spending statistics for 2011 were obtained from state tourism boards and were assumed to increase at an annual rate of 2.5% by 2013. We estimated the number of October visitors to each landmark in the above states and D.C. based on monthly historical data from the National Park Service.

Lincoln Memorial image courtesy of Shutterstock.