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Oil Spill Impacts Florida Tourism

When the BP oil rig disaster took place in late April, it was estimated that the resulting oil spill may become the worst in United States history. The assumption was soon proved to be correct. Just as the mainstream media has kept up on this topic, so has the Synergy Merchant Services Blog. Always concerned about the environment and the disastrous effects events such as these have on it, we report, once again on some of the ramifications of this tragedy.

In past blogs, we commented on the fact that wildlife, most notably birds such as the loon, have been devastated by the oil spill. Evidently, the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico has taken quite a severe hit. On the financial side of things, QMI Agency’s Sharon Singleton reports today that tourism in Florida is also one of the oil spill’s biggest victims.

As a result, Singleton reveals that some of the biggest hotel chains in the world are now offering “beach guarantees” to lure visitors back to Florida, as well as the other Gulf States that are impacted by oil-filled waters. With tourism being Florida’s biggest industry, the economy is currently reeling from the fact that visitor numbers are down by 10 per cent.

So as millions of gallons of oil continues to be pumped into the sea, less and less money is being pumped into the local economy. Generally, tourism in Florida generates an annual revenue of $60 billion while employing one million people.

One of the major hotel chains offering the aforementioned guarantees is Marriott International. With 15 hotels in Florida, this chain is offering a full refund to customers prior to their arrival if beaches are officially closed because of oil. In addition, a 50 per cent room credit will be offered to those guests who choose to stay regardless of the poor beach conditions.

Including the Ritz-Carlton and the Renaissance chains, the Marriott brand hasn’t seen many cancellations thus far. They are, however, prepared to go the extra mile to satisfy their customers. Then again, most of their properties are on the west coast where beaches are not affected by the oil spill.

Nevertheless, with a decline in new bookings, the chain wants to ensure that customers are not being warded off by the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico. Marriott is not alone, however. Singleton also reports that Orbitz.com is also introducing an “open beach guarantee.”

This will offer visitors a refund on their standalone reservations if the government closes a beach within a 20-mile radius of their resorts. In addition, “Hilton Worldwide said visitors to their hotel chains in the region will also be offered the same guarantees. Guests can get a 100% refund on bookings if a beach is closed within a 20-minute drive, while early departure fees will also be waived.”

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