Happy Little Cottages By The Sea

Cottage Charm, Coastal Calm

May 2010

An article about the oil spill and tourism

I wanted to share this article from The Washington Post about the Oil Spill and the devasting effect this is also having on tourism for the region. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in this area , but especially to our friends in the Tourism/ Vacation Rental Industry. We know that this could happen to anyone and we are sending lots of prayers there way.  Here is the article:

“COLUMBIA, S.C. — Daydreams of beach sunsets have been replaced by anxious Internet checks for many vacationers headed to the Gulf Coast, while hotel clerks there are busy answering calls about a massive oil spill and whether – just maybe – there’s a shot at a refund. The answer is typically no

Meanwhile, the phones are also steadily ringing for tourism officials hundreds of miles away at Atlantic Coast beaches like Hilton Head Island, S.C., as they delicately try to lure vacationers away without appearing to profit from the disaster.
The angst is caused by the millions of gallons of oil that have spewed from a well at the ocean floor since an offshore drilling rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20, killing 11 people. Balls of tar began washing up on the white sand beaches of Alabama’s Dauphin Island over the weekend, while amounts ranging from globules to an oily sheen were coming ashore to the west.

Tourism officials from Louisiana to Florida – and their customers – are anxiously watching to see where else the slick could come ashore. Vacationers who have already booked are tracking the spill online, and many have been told they’ll face a steep penalty for backing out.

“Businesses along the Gulf have the delicate task of keeping customers happy but sticking to policies that penalize for cancellations.
“I think reality has actually hit some of the people – whoa, they aren’t containing it quickly as we thought they might,” said Mallorie Thomas, a travel agent busy answering phones at Total Travel in Birmingham, Ala.

Traditional travel insurance won’t help, because the spill is considered an act of man, not an act of God. Most travel insurance only pays off if travelers can’t reach a destination or accommodations are closed, said Dan McGinnity, a spokesman for insurance company Travel Guard North America. That likely won’t be the case even if oil begins rolling on shore.

New bookings have slowed to a trickle as people wait to see where the oil goes. Normally, hotels might be willing to waive some cancellation fees if they were likely to be able to rent the room to someone else. But the uncertainty of the situation means rooms may remain empty, even with the peak of the vacation season on the horizon.

An increase in cancellations in Panama City Beach, Fla., led six resort and hotel groups to offer a $200 credit toward another visit if the government shuts down the beach or is cleaning oil from the sand and water when vacationers are there.

It’s not just hotels trying to keep customers from bailing. When Destin, Fla., photographer Donna Morgan’s phone rings these days, she knows it’s not going to be a new client.

We’ve had two cancellations so far. I’ve put a whole bunch more of them off. It’s been exhausting,” said Morgan, who takes wedding photos and family beach portraits. “I sympathize with our customers, but we also have a business to run.”

From Miami to Tybee Island, Ga., and up to Myrtle Beach, S.C., phones at hotels and chambers of commerce have been ringing and website traffic is up.

“We feel for our tourism partners along the Gulf Coast,” Clark said. “No destination wants to see this happen.”
So far, bookings haven’t spiked because a lot of callers are just checking their options, said Lindsay Fruchtl, spokeswoman for the Tybee Island Tourism Council.
“They were not sure if their deposits would be refunded. I think they were mainly checking availability in case they change their plans,” Fruchtl said.
Beaches are big business for Southeastern states. Alabama has just two coastal counties, but visitors spend more than $3 billion a year – better than a third of all tourism money in the state. Tourists spend $60 billion a year in Florida, accounting for nearly a quarter of all the state’s sales tax revenue. And in South Carolina, tourism is the state’s biggest industry, with vacationers spending more than $10 billion a year, the majority of it along the coast.
The oil slick has been similar to a hurricane threat – but the specter of most hurricanes torment coastal residents for a week, maybe two if they form far out to sea. The agony over where the oil will go seems to have no end in sight, said Morgan, who survived and rebuilt after Hurricane Ivan devastated the region in 2004.

“With Ivan, we knew we were going to get help,” Morgan said. “With this, we don’t know if we’re going to get help or how we’ll get help.”
Muehlfelt said she will continue watching the news about the oil spill and weigh her options right up until she hits the road for her 1,000-mile trip with her husband, 17-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son.

Several days ago, though, her plans suffered another blow when storms flooded Nashville, a key point on their trip. “I wonder,” she said, “if God isn’t telling us not to go at this point.”

Living your best life

Those of you who follow mermaid cottages on Facebook saw my adventures in NYC this past weekend.  Gotta love the mobile facebooking and twittering! makes it very easy to capture our experiences.

Attending the Oprah Magazine “Live your best life” weekend was one of my 10-10-10 goals this year and lived up to everything I’d hoped it would be. Besides the fact that three wonderful friends joined me- Donna, Libby and Cindy- we experienced amazing speakers, shows, restaurants and the best New York City had to offer. Including that adventure of riding the Pedi Cab down Broadway in the very chilly weather! Only in New York!

The O weekend was everything it was supposed to be.  Inspiring, challenging ( are you indeed living your best life and if not, what is stopping you?) mind opening and best of all “An evening with Oprah Winfrey” where we heard Oprah speak for two hours.  We were 10 rows back and were happy campers to not only be there, but to also realize we have the power to live the very best possible life imaginable.

Thank you Cindy, Donna and Libby for joining me!

The convention center was the headquarters and this was one of the banners ( one of many) hung up everywhere to remind us that only we have the power to live the life we want for ourselves.

We get to meet Boomer on Tuesday!

We are so excited here at my cottage tonight!  Not only are the dogs happy that I’m back home, but we have a very special visitor(s) coming on Tuesday for a visit!  I spent the weekend in Miami celebrating the life of Thomas Wahl– the father of one of my best friend’s Jeff.  We had the Memorial service in a gorgeous 13th century church that had been brought over from Spain, then a party @ Jeff’s house afterwards.  Then around 4PM, Jeff brought out party hats because it was Derby time!  So we switched gears and put on the hats, drank mint juleps, watched the Derby and remembered how Mr. Wahl always loved a good party.  

The dogs are wound up tonight because Boomer and Berkeley are coming to visit tomorrow. Berkeley as you know if the current guide dog  puppy we are sponsoring who we named to honor my step father Bob. Berkeley as in Berkeley Springs, WV the town that Bob loved so much.   Boomer is named to honor my step cousin- Jim Hawvermale who passed away way too young a few weeks ago.  Jim as about as good a person as there was in this world and drowned while saving the life of his wife Pam.   They have a big yellow lab who they adored and  when I spoke with Jim’s mom, she said Boomer would be a great name for the new puppy.

Sandy, one of my Marriott friends who also volunteers raising guide dog puppies, is currently raising Berkeley. He’s about to go back to guide dog school and the new group of puppies were born and the opportunity came along to sponsor our next Mermaid Cottage puppy.    Boomer is just 6 weeks old and a male golden retriever.   You be the judge- is there ever a more adorable puppy then this one?

Anyone who’s around tomorrow about 11AM , please feel welcome to come by and meet Boomer and Berkeley! We’ll be at Mermaid Manor cuddling puppies!