Skift Take

Plenty of U.S. tourism businesses have come out in the last few days to protest, but this is the first action by a booking site leader to pull others into his movement.

Online travel chief Dara Khosrowshahi expresses disbelief at the political impasse in Washington and warns tourism could hit if the shutdown drags on.

A top US businessman has vented his frustration at the brinkmanship in Washington which has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the Iranian-American chief executive of online travel giant Expedia, slammed the Congressional dispute as “unnecessary” and warned that the US government “isn’t helping” support the country’s “nascent recovery”.

All but the most crucial US government functions have been suspended while Congress wrangles over Republican demands to delay the implementation of Obamacare in return for passing the budget for this financial year.

Major US tourist attractions, from the Statue of Liberty to Yosemite National Park, have been closed since Tuesday, after politicians missed a midnight deadline to pass the budget bill.

“The US government isn’t helping,” he said.

“We have a nascent recovery…and so far things are going well despite what our government is doing.”

He called for a swift resolution, saying that if the two sides reach agreement in the shorter term the shutdown won’t become a “fundamental threat.”

“We see our corporate customers starting to spend a bit more money, feeling safer about their business and growing their business, and obviously inbound tourism is a big, big part of the US economy.

“If this extends beyond a couple of weeks it could be more of a significant negative,” he said.

Regardless of Washington’s agility in solving the crisis, Mr Khosrowshahi expressed disbelief that Congress had allowed situation to escalate in the first place.

“It sure seems unnecessary,” he concluded.

Mr Khosrowshahi has become one of the most high-profile Americans to join the chorus of disbelief and anger at government shutdown, which has seen 800,000 federal workers prevented from going to work.

Economists warn that if the crisis drags on, it will complicate efforts to increase the debt ceiling in time to prevent a US government default. The US is set to hit its borrowing limit on October 17 unless it acts to raise the ceiling. 

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Tags: expedia, shutdown2013

Photo credit: Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at the PhoCusWright conference. I'm George / Flickr

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