American visitor attractions closed to touristsWhat you can do if you've booked a trip to the USA

03 October 2013


Numerous American tourist attractions have been closed to the public following a failure by Congress to agree a new budget.

This has meant a federal government shutdown across the USA with scores of visitor centres closed to tourists. 

These include the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Independent Hall, Alcatraz, and the Washington Monument.

All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are also closed due to the federal government shutdown. 

Tourists planning visits to national parks should be aware that facilities will be unavailable to visitors during the shut-down period.

If you're currently on holiday in the USA or are about to travel, whether you're entitled to compensation depends on what was offered in your package holiday

A lawyer at Which? Legal services said: 'If you book a package holiday, the holiday company is responsible for problems with flights, accommodation and any other services it said you'd get. You have different rights depending on whether you are already on holiday or have been told the holiday you are due to take will be altered because of these issues. 

'Which? Legal Service can offer legal advice on your specific situation. To join Which? Legal Service call 01992 822828 or visit the Which? Legal Services website'.

Your package holiday rights

If booked a package holiday which included admission to certain sites or attractions that are closed, then you may have a right to cancel your trip. 

However, you would need to show that the changes would amount to 'significant alterations' to the package you had bought.

If there are significant alterations to the package, the Package Travel Regulations state that you can get compensation if appropriate.

When the alterations are due to events beyond the company's control though, compensation may not be due. 

If your package didn't include entry to tourist attractions or national parks, then the holiday company may simply argue that no part of the package has changed because entry to the attractions was never part of the package.

Package holiday compensation

If you're already on holiday and the company cannot provide a significant proportion of the services included in your package (e.g. if the package comprised of admission to a series of attractions), then it has to make suitable alternative arrangements for the continuation of the package.

If they can't do this, then you can ask to curtail your holiday.

Whether it’s reasonable to curtail depends on what your package consisted of, and what proportion of the package can’t now be provided.

See more information in our guide on how to claim if you're unhappy with your package holiday

If you've paid for attractions independently and not as part of a package holiday, check the terms and conditions. In practice, it may be best to go to your card provider to attempt to get the money back. 

If you buy goods or services on your credit or debit card, you have extra protection if things go wrong compared with paying by cash or cheque. 

If you've spent over £100 and less than £30,000 on a credit card, you can use Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to try and claim the money back. 

If you've spent less than £100 on a credit card, or used a debit card, you can attempt to claw the money back from the seller's bank using chargeback

More on This...