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National Park Closure Leads To Layoffs In Moab

With National Parks closed due to the coronavirus, Utah's tourism industry is shutdown, leading to layoffs and loss of income.
Chao Yen
"There's no one staying in hotels, there's no one really wanting to do river trips," said Jason Taylor, of Western River Expeditions. "And so we've been kind of in a holding pattern since then.”";

The weeks surrounding Easter are generally some of the busiest for Canyonlands National Park, but due to closures surrounding the coronavirus, the red rocks are empty following the March 28 announcement from the National Park Service.

“When we kind of got notification of the shutdown, we were just kind of gearing up. We had started doing river trips," said Jason Taylor, the Utah Operations Manager for Western River Expeditions and the Moab Adventure Center. "We were about three days into doing our one-day river trips here...Then we got the notification that we're going to close all the hotels. At that point, we basically shut down."

He said almost every business in Moab is geared toward the tourism industry, and how long it takes for businesses to recover will depend on how long the shutdowns last.

“You know, we all want to do what's best for the community, and you've got two different things going on of this pandemic that has the possibility of making a lot of people really sick and killing some of these people, but then you have the financial part of it that people are trying to wade through and try to figure out," Taylor said. "You got kind of both and kind of going on and trying to figure things out. But the slow death of no money coming in is pretty scary as well.”

Since the Mighty Five marketing campaign was released in 2013, tourism to Utah’s state and national parks has becomea billion-dollar industry, with a large percentage going to wages and job creation. But since the shutdowns, Taylor says many businesses, including Western River Expeditions have had to layoff much of the staff as not only are guests cancelling reservations, the Bureau of Land Management suspended all commercial business operations within the last week.

“A lot of our workforce too has been laid off, just because I don't need bus drivers bus drivers, our off-road drivers, our river shuttle drivers," he said. "Our river guides aren't working, our canyoneering guides aren’t working, so there have been quite a few layoffs just because we don't have any business.”