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Sequester likely to raise airfares, discourage travel

  Tourism leaders are worried that federal budget cuts -- which are expected to lead to higher airfares, delays and long lines at airports -- will discourage travelers and squeeze Florida’s biggest industry.

 “Americans quickly grow frustrated, and those who are frequent travelers often decide to avoid trips because of it,” said Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association. “This is how we set our economy back.”

 The budget sequester, which began March 1 and will fully hit home in April, will force closure of air traffic control facilities at some smaller airports and limit manpower at larger ones, reducing the number of flights that can be handled safely.

 Fewer flights almost inevitably means higher fares, at least on some routes, said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, which tracks airfares.

 “The people who must fly will pay whatever they have to, such as people going to funerals or overseas,” Hobica said. Others may not bother, he said, or will end up driving long distances.

 Furloughs of Customs inspectors and TSA screeners, meanwhile, are likely to lengthen lines at airports and security stations.

 Freeman cited survey results indicating that 62 percent of travelers found air travel to be a hassle and 41 percent were likely to avoid trips because of it.

 “And that’s before the sequester kicks in,” he said. “The sequester has the potential to make that worse.”

 His outrage was shared by some tourism leaders in Florida.

 “It’s not just futzing around with sequestration, it’s the tourism-based economy of communities and states,” said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There are thousands of businesses in Florida that depend on tourism, and they are getting popped every time the federal government has made a decision lately.”

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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