Oil Spill Shadows Gulf Coast Vacations

Oil Spill Shadows Gulf Coast Vacations

The Deepwater Oil spill has cast its dark shadows on Gulf Coast’s flourishing tourism industry. With oil blobs beginning to wash many white sand beaches of Florida, the spill poses a serious challenge to the economy of this State, already reeling under a severe fiscal crisis.

The slick arrived in Florida on Friday as reddish and black blobs of oil were found on the white sands of Santa Rosa Island.

Curiously though, hotels, bars and eateries along Florida beaches did brisk business earlier this week, a phenomenon attributed to people’s anxiousness to catch the fun before it is too late. At Pensacola Beach hotel prices were more than usual and discounts few and far between. The Hilton, Innisfree Hotels and many others were almost all sold out. The Fish House also did a good business.

However, the party is unlikely to go on. Coming days may see a spurt in cancelation of hotel bookings, even as potential vacationers are getting worried about the implications of the worst oil spill in the history of U.S. As vacation season draws closer, there couldn’t have been a worse timing for this crisis to have come for those in the tourism industry.

The oil spill of the Gulf of Mexico was triggered on April 20 by blast and fire on Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig owned by Transocean Ltd. under lease from BP PLC. The incident killed 11 workers besides blowing out an undersea well, causing continuous release of massive amount of oil into the sea. The spill has already affected 125 miles of Louisiana’s coast as well as Mississippi and Alabama coasts. Traces of oil have been reported from the Pensacola beach in Florida. With the spill yet to be plugged, more areas are likely to be affected.

“We are receiving a lot of phone calls from tourists enquiring if the spill would impact their vacations”, said an executive of a resort along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

With concern writ large on potential vacationers, many resorts have come up with compensatory deals. A vacation management company, having business in Mississippi and Northwest Florida, has offered ‘clean beach guarantee’. The guarantee promises full refunds and attractive deals to guests if the beaches are closed due to the spill. A beach golf resort and spa in northwest Florida has rolled out a ‘stress free summer guarantee’ and 24-hour cancellation policy in case the beach is closed due to the slick. Some hotels have also slashed rates and offered free golf.

Despite deals and offers, many hotels located along the beaches of the Gulf Coast have reported group booking cancellation.

Meanwhile, there are hectic efforts on the part of BP to contain the leak and ameliorate the situation. According to Coast Guard, BP is pumping about 46,000 gallons of oil per day through a funnel shaped cap installed deep beneath the sea level. Total 589,000 gallons of oil is estimated to be gushing out from the damaged well.

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