Travel troubles taint Gulf Coast tourism

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - For now, Gulf Coast tourists aren't staying away from tourist hotspots, but they're not flocking there either.

For many folks who made reservations--but now want to cancel--the Devil's in the details of the contract's fine print.

The race is on as state agencies battle the clock to protect the state's shoreline.

"If you look at where we were two weeks ago and where we were today, we have a different level of protection and I think we'll be fine, if--a big if--they can cap the well," Governor Bob Riley explained.

That's encouraging news for the $20 billion dollar tourism industry along the Gulf Coast as it ebbs and flows with the tide.

"Travel agents in Montgomery aren't taking any trip cancellations yet, but they say all that could change.

"All vacation companies down in that area have different policies, so we are handling everything on a case by case scenario, said Amy Daniel of Alabama World Travel.

If you change your mind and want to stay at home, most agencies offer trip cancellation insurance.  Be warned, however, you must read the fine print.

Some travelers got burned after realizing an oil spill wasn't covered.

"Most of the insurance companies will cover natural disasters, but this is not considered a natural disaster," Daniel said.

Down on the coast, it's life as usual--barring the occasional tar ball.

Residents in Gulf Shores are getting ready for the Hangout Music Festival.

"To additionally have the opportunity to dispel the damage or any rumors or any untruths about the damage, is a great opportunity," said Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft.

Those rumors that still haven't scared away all of the visitors.

"We're okay right now, but we're just waiting," Daniel explained.

Hotel managers in Gulf Shores say they're taking reservations left and right for the big music festival, and there are no signs of oil yet on Alabama's coast.

Travel agents say if the situation does worsen, make sure the people you book your trip with have your best interests at heart.

Alabama tourism officials are launching a new TV ad campaign to encourage you to visit the beach.

BP is paying for the $1.5 million campaign.

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