The clock is ticking on a potential government shutdown, with a Jan. 19, 2018, midnight Eastern Standard Time deadline. The president just postponed his Mar-A-Lago travel plans and VP Pence, the potential tie-breaking vote in the Senate, at press time was packing his bags for a trip to the Middle East.

The last time a major government shutdown occurred, (in October 2013) it cost the U.S. travel industry upwards of $2.2 billion, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Standard & Poor’s estimated the 2013 shutdown cost the U.S. economy as a whole $24 billion, as noted in this TIME magazine article.

If indeed the government does shutdown, how will it affect the meetings industry in the near term? We asked some industry experts for their perspectives.

“The ripple effect on meetings is that government employees wouldn’t be able to attend and get the information, training and resources associated with their event, which is a big deal,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO, Destination DC. “Planners using federal museums for off-site venues would also be impacted.

"However, in that instance, we would help [planners] select alternative venues or attractions that remain open, such as the Newseum or recently opened Wharf development," Ferguson added.

According to ASAE, the American Society of Association Executives, here are two scenarios that would play out if the government were to truly shutdown, and which would amplify the longer it stayed shut:

  1. Museums operated by the federal government would be closed, which would lead to events being cancelled, or at least rerouted to other venues, likely costing money and resources.
  2. Speakers or attendees from government organizations wouldn't be able to attend meetings and events, leaving planners scrambling, or in worst case scenarios, completely canceling events.  

The good news, according to this article from USA Today, is that airports and Amtrak will be open for business, although the furlough of “non-essential” employees could cause travel delays.

If you’re planning on visiting a national park, you’ll be out of luck, however.

Take it up with Smokey Bear, if you can find him.