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by By Sarah J.F. Braley | July 01, 2010

As oil from the BP rig disaster continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, the area's shore destinations are urging visitors to keep their plans, and major hotel chains insisted at press time that group contracts with their properties along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coasts remain firmly in effect.

Meanwhile, the hospitality industry is working hard to quell concerns. Hilton established a "Beach Satisfaction Guarantee" for individual guests (bit.ly/dmL8GE), although a company spokerperson noted, "Our properties currently are unaffected, remain open and are fully operational." M&C received a similar statement from Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and a representative for Marriott International said standard group cancellation policies still apply.

For its part, BP has given the affected states money toward tourism marketing. Louisiana, for example, was granted $15 million. Of that sum, $5 million went to New Orleans to get out the message that the city is 100 miles inland and does not expect to be affected by the spill.

A spokesperson from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted optimistically that some of the oil is being caught in a large eddy, where it is being "weathered," or broken down. (Go to bit.ly/d3B7M3 for NOAA's map of the spill.)

Still, it's anybody's guess how the slick will spread if the NOAA's prediction of a strong hurricane season (through November) comes true. The organization expects eight to 14 storms, up to seven of which could be major.