America’s budget: Of shutdowns and business travellers

The American government appears to be heading for a shutdown. What does that mean for the world of business travel?First, it’s terrible news for businesses involved in business travel. The federal government employs millions of people, and those people travel. When the government shuts down, only essential personnel will be allowed to hit the road. That will affect flight bookings, hotel vacancy rates and car-rental businesses, especially in the area around Washington, DC. Of course that could all be good news for private-sector business travellers heading to the capital, because the reduced demand could lead to lower prices. But then doing business with the government is one of the main reasons for taking a business trip to DC, so that may not be happening very much.Airport security and air-traffic control will be unaffected by a shutdown. For business travellers themselves, the biggest obstacle will be the lack of State Department workers to process passport and visa applications. If the government shuts down, only a skeleton staff will be available, and they’ll focus on processing applications submitted before the shutdown. During the last shutdown, in the mid-1990s, “20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day, while 200,000 US applications for passports went unprocessed,” reports NBC Washington. The real problem, though, is what …

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