SALEM (CBS) – In Salem, October represents the city’s busiest month for tourism. Hundreds of thousands flock to the area for Halloween festivities, starting this Thursday with the Haunted Happenings parade. “We spend all year telling people to come to Salem and start your trip at the visitors center. So, here we are,” Kate Fox said outside a locked Salem Regional Visitor Center.
The center is run by the National Park Service, which also overseas the Salem Maritime National Historic Site nearby. “We saw the National Park employees coming out after they received their furlough notices and at the same time we were trying to answer visitor questions,” Fox, the Executive Director of Destination Salem explained.
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Using a table set up outside the center, Fox and volunteers helped roughly 380 tourists on day one of the shutdown. They would normally browse the center and shop in its gift shop.
While we talked with Fox, two more visitors walked up to the doors and were disappointed they couldn’t get in.
“It’s not open and we don’t know…we’ve made so many turns and I have no idea where we’re at right now,” said Barbara Kutzorik of San Antonio, Texas. She and her friend, who’s visiting from Australia, needed some information and a hotel nearby. “Do you have any availability tonight? I have two visitors over at the visitors center,” Fox said as she helped them find a room.
In Salem, Fox says 32 government employees were furloughed. Until they return, the makeshift information booth will be manned daily from 9am to 4:30pm in the front of the center on New Liberty Street. And they’re expecting increasing crowds.
“On an October Saturday with good weather, we could have 12,000 to 15,000 visitors come through here,” she said.
As she explained to visitors Barbara Kutzorik and Lynette McIntosh, everything else in Salem is open. A government shutdown is an inconvenience, but it won’t stop this city from taking care of its guests during peak season. “You’ll be able to see all the sites and museums in town, it’s just these two properties,” she said.