FEDERAL SHUTDOWN DEVASTATES D.C. TOURISM
WASHINGTON — You can almost hear an echo in Katie Ziglar's office at the National Museum of American Art.
She and her colleagues are among the thousands of so-called ''nonessential'' workers who have been furloughed because of the federal government's shutdown.
But that hasn't deterred Ms. Ziglar. One of a handful of museum employees who went to work Wednesday, she can be found in her office, frantically making calls to ward off people planning to attend the museum's biggest event of the year: the now canceled opening of an exhibit of paintings by the Ashcan School (a group of American artists, formed in 1908, who painted everyday urban events) that has been four years in the planning.
''It's terrible to think about people making special efforts to come here, and finding the place completely closed,'' says Ziglar. All of the Smithsonian facilities, and other tourist sites, such as Arlington National Cemetery, have been closed since Tuesday.
''We hear talk of opening up parts of government in a piecemeal fashion,'' says Zigler, ''so it's possible that we could open our doors even before the full government is back in business.''
That won't help 350 exemplary high school students who arrived here Tuesday for a National Young Leaders Conference. Here to see ''how fantastic government is, instead these kids get to see their government, upfront and personal, in one of the worst deadlocks in recent memory,'' says Andrew Flagel, director of admissions for the Congressionally sponsored group.
Washington rakes in an annual $7 billion in tourism revenues, mostly from the city's museums and monuments.
The Thanksgiving weekend is the area's busiest for tourists. Denise McMahon, account executive at Washington's Cal Simmons Travel, says D.C.-bound travelers seeking to get their money back on flights ''may only do so if the airlines cancel the flight or if there is a major weather problem.''