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Gulf Coast Beaches Open

by Erin Z. Bass

I know many of you, myself included, are concerned about your upcoming beach vacation to the Gulf Coast because of the oil spill. Should you cancel, plan on volunteering instead of lounging on the beach, or just wait it out? A few hours helping out while you’re there is probably a good idea, but the message coming out of Gulf Coast tourism organizations and rental companies is that there is currently no oil on the beach, no smell, and guests should take a wait and see approach if possible.

Bird’s eye view courtesy of Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Public Relations Manager with the Gulf Coast CVB Kim Chapman sent us the following statement:

“Currently, there is no oil on the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. According to the NOAA forecasts, no shoreline impact is expected for this area for at least the next 72 hours. We are encouraging our guests to seek out official and confirmed information from the unified response team, which we are posting continuously at www.gulfshores.com/issues. All of the businesses along Pleasure Island are committed to ensuring a quality vacation for their guests. Please contact your rental company for additional details regarding their specific cancellation policies as many companies are alternating their policies to reassure future guests should this area be impacted by the oil spill. However, it should be noted that local officials have developed an extensive clean-up plan and have deployed oil-absorbing booms and other proactive preventative measures along the local beaches, at the mouths of bays and inlets and in other sensitive areas. Also, we must reiterate that there is no effects of the oil spill on our beaches currently, and it is impossible to predict if or when there may be.”

Realty company Brett/Robinson, which handles Phoenix and many other properties, is posting daily updates on their website and says they won’t charge a penalty if guests cancel due to the oil spill. The company’s update for May 4 states:

“We are continuing to monitor the situation in the Gulf of Mexico concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. There is no smell. Tar has not landed on the beaches. We are suggesting to guests holding reservations that they maintain the “wait and see” approach. Brett/Robinson will not charge a cancellation penalty if you cancel due to oil regardless of your arrival date. We encourage those contemplating a vacation in our area to go ahead and make plans. If you arrive for vacation and are not satisfied with your experience we will refund you an unused portion of your rent if you choose to leave early. Your support of our area and our company is greatly appreciated during this time.”

I’m scheduled to hit the shore in Orange Beach the week of May 17. I don’t know about all of you, but I need my annual beach vacation, and a little oil isn’t going to stop me. Unless the Gulf Coast CVB says don’t come, I’ll be there, and I hope to see you on the sand!

Depending on when your vacation is booked, there may still be plenty of opportunities to volunteer and help with cleanup. Consult our list of opportunities (updated daily) to find out what you can do while you’re at the coast.

Update: This morning, the Press-Register reported that Baldwin County tourism officials are doing damage control as perceptions of oily water and beaches cause travelers to cancel their vacations. Even though a drop of oil has not touched Gulf Coast beaches, it could take the area several years to bounce back from this disaster. A meeting on the issue was being held this morning. Also, the Beaches of South Walton have created a website to say they are unaffected by the spill and open for business.

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