Back in my proverbial college days of yore, I encountered a rather surly looking fellow who strutted around our dormitory like a fighter about to enter the ring. Head down, brows furrowed, shoulders broad and menacing, his natural disposition was about as inviting as that of a charging rhino.
And then I got to know him.
A mutual friend invited us both out a few weeks into the school year and I learned my perceptions couldn’t have been more off. While he maintained the look of standoffish intensity—more a result of poor eyesight and his stocky build than anything—this particular individual boasted an effortless ability to converse and ferocious sense of humor. He soon became one of my best friends and still is to this very day.
The point of this aside is to demonstrate how damaging perceptions can be. Had our mutual friend not intervened, I likely would have avoided my grumpy-looking peer like many a traveler has avoided the Gulf Coast in the wake of the oil spill, regardless of whether or not tar balls and oil slicks have washed up on shore.
As I reported earlier this month, that oft-erroneous perception many travelers have of the spill’s impact has diverted as much as 24% of leisure guests who intended to visit the region this summer, according to a RRC Associates’ Travel Intentions Survey.
“We think that the perception of the impact of the spill will persist long after the actual effects,” said Nate Fristoe, a director with the firm.
But will hoteliers get compensated for those long-term perceptions? In Monday’s “5 things to know,” we ran an item from the Orlando Sentinel that reported one company’s denied claim:
“TradeWinds Resort in St. Petersburg Beach, says BP has denied a (US)$2 million claim filed by (the) waterfront hotel. The claim represented a documented loss of revenue for the 800-room resort from April to June, based on actual revenues from the previous three years.
“(Senior VP and COO Keith) Overton, also chairman of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, said BP responded that, unless oil from its blown-out well off the coast of Louisiana reached the sands of St. Petersburg Beach, the TradeWinds didn't have a claim for compensation.”
So who exactly does have a claim? According to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, to which BP has transitioned its individual and business claims program, “Individuals and Businesses that have incurred damages as a result of the Spill may submit a claim to the GCCF for Removal and Clean Up Costs, Damage to Real or Personal Property, Lost Earnings or Profits, Loss of Subsistence Use of Natural Resources, or Physical Injury or Death.”
It would seem that TradeWinds would qualify under the “Lost Earnings or Profits” item, but further exploration renders such a determination a bit less clear:
“Any Individual or Business may submit a claim to the GCCF for costs and damages incurred as a result of the oil discharges from the Spill. However, to receive payment from the GCCF, your costs and damages must have been proximately caused by the Spill and must not be too remote in time or place from the Spill.”
So is St. Petersburg Beach too far away? A representative at the GCCF declined to get into specifics on that ruling, and said claims determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.
Fortunately for hoteliers in proximity to the spill, performance in general hasn’t suffered too greatly. Data from STR shows during the week ending 14 August, occupancy for properties along the Gulf Coast rose 4.5%, average daily rate bumped up slightly by 1%, and revenue per available room increased 5.6%. (Granted, over favorable year-over-year comps, but still.)
In the weeks and months going forward, I hope inaccurate perceptions about the oil spill’s impact wash away, claims get distributed properly, and every reader gets to know at least one surly looking individual who crosses his or her path.