by Lisa A. Grimaldi | October 01, 2010
The 162-room Margaritaville Beach Hotel, part of the chain operated by singer Jimmy Buffet, opened its doors in late June right on the beach in Pensacola, Fla., at the height of the oil spill crisis. M&C spoke with Linda Craul, the property's director of sales and marketing, about the challenge of opening at such an auspicious time.

What were your first thoughts when you heard about the oil spill?

That I just wanted to open. We were ready, and we opened on time.

Did you consider postponing until the crisis was over?

Never! And I am absolutely glad we didn't.

Did oil/tar ever reach the shore?

One week, we had tar and some oil wash up, but it was cleaned up right away.

Have you had cancellations?
We did, but they were minimal, under 10 percent of business booked.

Did you have any meeting or incentive business booked then?

We've had lots of inquiries for small meetings of under 100 attendees, but we didn't do much meeting business during the summer, and there were no cancellations from that market.

What is your occupancy rate?
For the three months we've been open, it has averaged 44 percent.

Do you think the public's perception of the area will take a long time to come back?

It will come back when the media does six-month follow-up pieces and shows how it looks now: pristine beaches with sugar-white sand.