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Government shutdown mixed bag for Flagstaff hotels

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Grand Canyon National Park closed down Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a deal to fund the federal government by the Monday night deadline. Flagstaff hotels are seeing a slight boom in business as tourists get booted from the park. 

“Our director of sales booked no less than seven groups today,” said Holiday Inn Express General Manager Archie Stringfield. “Rooms are not available at the Grand Canyon, so they’re coming to Flagstaff.”

The Drury Inn has also sold rooms to some would-be Grand Canyon-goers.

“We picked up a couple last-minute tours for (today),” said Julia Feygin, front office manager at the Drury. “They weren’t able to get into the Grand Canyon, so they’re coming to Flagstaff.”

However, local hoteliers are far from breaking out the champagne.

“We have seen some cancellations,” said Sean McMahan, manager of the Hotel Monte Vista. “Our whole industry that is related, as we are, to travelers who go to the National Park destinations, we are seeing a hit.”

McMahan said a lot of the guests who stay at the Monte Vista are looking for a hotel room before or after a trip to the Grand Canyon. 

The hospitality company Xanterra, which runs about a half- dozen hotels and lodges inside Grand Canyon National Park, has been turning away new guests since the federal government shut down early Tuesday morning. Guests who were already inside the park have been given 48 hours to pack up and leave. Some hotels are already selling rooms to those people who have been turned away.

The federal government shutdown started right as Little America Hotel started what is typically its busiest tourist month. Little America’s director of sales, Susan Shields, said October is usually the month when European travelers flock to Arizona for a chance to see the Grand Canyon while the weather is nice. It is too early to tell how the hotel will be affected by the shutdown.

“We have to offer different things,” Shields said. “It’s a good thing to offer different things because we get a chance to highlight all the things Flagstaff has to offer, but personally, I think it’s a crime to shut down one of the Seven Wonders of the World.”

Ruben Abeyta, general manager of the Fairfield Inn, echoed that sentiment. He said a lot of guests are unhappy about missing out on what can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.    “Guests are very disappointed,” Abeyta said. “They come here for a specific mission and that is to see the Grand Canyon and it’s closed.”

Local hotels are now warning guests about the National Park closure and recommending other attractions for tourists to visit while the parks are out of commission. For example, Feygin said the Drury staff has been sending some tour groups to Sedona. She said the goal is to keep guests happy so they will want to return to the hotel when the national parks reopen.

“Our focus is on the guests in house,” Feygin said. “Hopefully, if they can’t see (the Grand Canyon) this time, they will come back.”


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