As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis hits its one month anniversary and stretches on, a survey shows that the climate of fear has resulted in cancellations of meetings and impacted new bookings for upto 6 months.
A survey of Gulf Coast hotels conducted May 16-17, 2010 by The Knowland Group show that 42% of hotels are experiencing group booking cancellations – a 7% rise from a previous survey in the first week of May.
14% of the hotels surveyed said they were having significant issues with future bookings while 8% stated moderate difficulties.
Of those who said they’re facing future booking issues, 44% have immediate booking issues while 40% are facing difficulties with bookings for the next three to six months.
The hotels responded that while 48% of the cancellations were on account of fears of the oil spill impact on beaches, a full 56% of the cancellations were due to the media hype regarding the spill.
To ease the fears and try to win back fleeing customers, 62% of hotels surveyed who have had event cancellations said they are not holding groups to the attrition clause in their contracts, and are also offering credits towards future bookings.
There is also one other silver lining for the Gulf Coast hotels, especially those in Louisiana. There are 24,700 personnel responding to the Deepwater Horizon crisis, and an equally huge army of media personnel and environmentalists camped out in the Gulf Coast.
The Knowland Group survey shows hotel occupancy boosted by visitors linked to the oil spill, with the hotels surveyed showing a 36% increase in transient bookings from guests associated with the petroleum industry, 12% from the media, and 40% from environmental groups.
Facts (as of May 20, 2010) - The oil has not reached Florida, Alabama or Mississippi and their beaches remain oil free, odor free and open for business. A thick sheet of oil has crept ashore into Louisiana’s wetlands, and some oil has also entered the loop current. The oil well is still leaking, with an official estimate of 5000 barrels/day and unofficial scientific estimates of upto 25,000 barrels/day. BP has pledged $70 million for funding Gulf Coast tourism promotion.
Theories & Projections - The NOAA, whose trajectory projections are based on the surface oil spill, says it could be 8-10 days before the loop brings the oil to Florida, if at all.
The College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, whose projections take into consideration the presence of oil plumes below the surface, says the loop could carry the oil down to Key West by Sunday and around Florida’s tip to Miami as early as next week. Under this model, the entire Florida peninsula could be surrounded by oil by the end of May.
Either way, Florida’s hopes rest on the weather keeping the oil away from the loop, on whether BP manages to seal the well by next week, and on hopes that any oil which does enter the loop will degrade by the time it reaches their coast and the tar balls will be relatively less harmful and easier to clean up.
Photo – public domain (source)