NEW ORLEANS -- What impact is the government shutdown having on the city's top industry, tourism and the World War II Museum, just ranked the 14th top museum in the world?
The government shutdown confused some visitors to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
"Hundreds of people have called here asking if we're still open. We tell them 'yes' and they come," said Nick Mueller, the museum's president and CEO. The museum is a private, non-profit operation and has no affiliation with the federal government.
A couple of would-be visitors even said they were coming here instead of to the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Numbers at the New Orleans museum keep rising substantially.
WWII veteran Tommy Godchaux has been to both places and prefers the educational aspect of the museum over the memorial. Veteran visitors in New Orleans understand why fellow vets went around Washington barricades.
"They're proud of the achievements that they made in WWII and they think it should be available to them. And I think it's also part of the general disgust that the public has with Washington," said Tommy Godchaux, 88, a WWII veteran who volunteers at the museum. He was an army engineer in the Pacific.
"I think they deserve to see the monument. And even though the government wanted to close down, we've been functioning without them anyhow," said H. George Williams, 93, a WWII veteran who served in southern Italy. He came from Athens, Ohio to see the museum.
Of the 16 million Americans who fought for this country in WWII, there are only about 1.2 million of them who are still alive.
"We're losing them quickly now, so it's important they come now," said Mueller. "To WWII veterans, WWII groups, reunion groups, whatever, we are open. We are ready to receive you to show you the greatest museum in the world."
Many visitors come to the city because of the museum, and for conventions. Those numbers are breaking records too.
"This fall is the biggest by far that we've seen since (Hurricane) Katrina. Our convention schedule is 60 percent up compared to the fall of 2012. In the next three months, we're going to have major medical conventions here. We're going see about 130, 000 people from more than 30 countries from all over the world," said Kelly Schulz, the vice-president of communications and public relations at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In her office, they are working to make sure they don't lose any government meetings booked to travel here.
"So far, we really haven't seen an impact from the federal government shutdown. We haven't seen a huge increase in visitors from people that maybe were going to go somewhere else and chose New Orleans. But fortunately, we haven't seen any cancellations either," said Schulz.
The fall conventions are expected to have a $153 million economic impact on the city. But tourism officials say the people who run places such as Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery, and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, are losing money with the shutdown.