Thursday, December 25, 2014

Some tourist sites get boost during shutdown

Attractions work to let public know they're open

The National Constitution Center ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
The National Constitution Center ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

With names like the National Constitution Center and Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, it would be easy to assume a number of Philadelphia attractions are closed amid the federal government shutdown.

But while National Park Service-run sites such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Museum and Independence Visitor Center are closed, plenty of other historical locations and museums are open -- and even seeing some extra visitors.

Some institutions said they were getting some additional business from tour groups that had initially planned to visit now-closed park service locations. But several sites said they have had to work hard to inform the public that they remain open, despite their proximity to Independence National Historical Park or the word "national" in their names.

Two tour groups that had planned to visit Washington, D.C., last week instead came to the National Constitution Center after sites in the District were closed, said Sarah Fergus, a constitution center spokeswoman.

The groups booked their tours last week -- a stark contrast to the typical practice of booking months in advance. 

"We’ve definitely been trumpeting that we’re open," Fergus said. To get that message across, the center has used its website, social media accounts and signs outside the building, located at 5th and Arch streets, just two blocks from Independence Hall. "We’ve taken an aggressive means of doing so. There is that assumption, especially because we’re on park land."

At the Betsy Ross House at 3rd and Arch, there was a last-minute field trip booking from a group that planned to visit D.C., but rerouted to Philadelphia during the closure, according to Historic Philadelphia spokeswoman Heather Kincade.

But there’s been a slight downturn in tourist traffic at Franklin Square, which officials believe is due to the site’s proximity to the closed attractions.

Workers have fielded multiple calls about whether the square was open, Kincade said. At Independence Mall last week, during the first days of the partial government shutdown, a number of tourists were surprised to learn nearby sites like the National Constitution Center and Franklin Square were open.

Officials at the Franklin Institute near Logan Square -- which houses the national memorial for Franklin -- said they, too, were making an effort to tell the public that the museum is open. 

"As a private museum, The Franklin Institute is not affected by the government shutdown and we continue to use a number of communication methods to inform the public and avoid confusion," said Troy M. Collins, the institute’s senior vice president for programs, marketing and business development.

In D.C., where the Smithsonian museums are shut down, some private museums also reported an increase in tourists. 

The International Spy Museum has already booked a dozen additional tour groups for upcoming weeks, public relations manager Jason Werden told NPR.

"We’ve certainly seen an influx of visitors," he said.

VisitPhilly.com, the website of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, is keeping a list of Philadelphia sites open and closed during the shutdown.


Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

Emily Babay PHILLY.COM
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected