At Robbye’s Western Wear in Theodore, Ala., a Mobile suburb, the cowboy boots are marked way down, the fancy belt buckles are in deep discount and spirits are getting lower by the day.
After 30 years, Robbye’s Western Wear is headed into the sunset, a casualty of the oil spill and its aftermath, according to Jeff Fisher, co-owner of the long-time family enterprise anchored by B&R Campers next door, the Mobile Press-Register reported.
Located on U.S. 90 West, just south of Interstate 10, Robbye’s and B&R received a one-two punch from the spill, according to Fisher.
RV sales plummeted, and, with fewer snowbirds, casual tourists, and beachgoers on their way to Dauphin Island, the Western shop became a lonesome corral some days.
“The Western wear store is being sacrificed to provide revenue for the campers,” said Fisher, referring to B&R, named for his parents, Bill and Robbye Fisher.
Fisher and his brothers run the RV side; his mother, Robbye Fisher, manages the clothing store. His father is deceased.
Robbye’s Western Wear opened in 1981, he said, to offset the slow sales of campers and RVs during the winter.
Now, sales are slow all around, he said.
“Since the oil spill,” said Fisher, “it’s the first time in our history that we’ve gone into negative numbers.
“I’ve gritted my teeth,” he said. “At what point do I cut my losses?”
It’s a question that has been nagging Fisher, with deepening intensity, for the better part of a year.
Fisher said that he had received only one check, to date, for an oil spill damage claim. That amount was comparable to a month’s revenue, he said.
He recently filed for a final settlement claim, he said, but has not received word on compensation. “I’m not at liberty to give the exact amount,” he said of the filing, “but it’s six figures.”
In the meantime, he said, “as a family we’ve taken money out of our pocket to keep the business going.”
He had to lay off long-term workers, taking his 15 full-time employees down to seven part-time.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Robbye Fisher, 70, presiding over the Western store with one of her daughters-in-law, Lisa Fisher.
Beneath the liquidation sale signs, she showed customers cowboy hats and fancy Western shirts.
Only 20% of her customers, she figured, have been regulars.
The rest were tourists stopping by on their way down U.S. 90, including Northerners residing South in the cold months and eager for a regional look.
Fans of NASCAR and country music, said Jeff Fisher, have been among the steady clientele wanting to buy boots and jeans.
Robbye Fisher said she would welcome retirement, but she seemed to brighten, too, every time someone new walked in the door.
After the liquidation is over in a few weeks, Jeff Fisher said, the space will become the parts department for B&R Campers.
For all the oil spill claims and cleanup work by BP, retirees from the North may be the best survival bet for some Gulf Coast resort towns this winter, ABC News reported.
After a disastrous summer tourism season and a slower-than-normal fall, Northern and Midwestern visitors known as “snowbirds” already are flocking along the Gulf for the winter, filling up condominium parking lots and campgrounds with cars and RVs from states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.
This annual migration of the AARP set is worth millions to the coastal economy and typically serves a financial bridge for tourist-dependent condominiums, restaurants and stores between the holidays and the start of spring break season, when business picks up again.
This year, snowbirds are critical for the companies and property owners who have suffered for months because of the BP oil spill. Without the snowbirds, some businesses teetering on the edge of solvency may not make it until the weather warms up again.
“You take that away when they didn’t have anything to start with and you start a whole new tier of desperation,” said Tony Kennon, mayor of this beach town on the Alabama-Florida border.
The local tourism agency is advertising in the Midwest, inviting snowbirds to return to the coast. Winter rates always are far less than summer prices, with many condominium owners renting out their units to Northern visitors for months at a time. Some condominiums and motels are offering even lower prices than normal this year, with prices reduced by two-thirds at a few.
At the Gulf Breeze RV Resort in neighboring Gulf Shores, workers didn’t know whether snowbirds would be scared off by images of oil hitting beaches during the summer. Would they go elsewhere this year, perhaps to the East Coast or farther south into Central Florida?
Julie Kenney, who works at the RV park, was relieved to see campers from the Midwest begin arriving earlier than normal in late October. The resort’s 250 sites are now about 80% full, and it’s completely booked after Jan. 1 without any spill-related discounts.
Three months after the BP oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, some RV park and campground owners say their businesses are beginning to recover while others report summer occupancy rates off as much as 50% as the region continues to combat the perception that oil is washing up on hundreds of miles of beaches.
”We are fortunate; we’ve had very few cancellations,” said Katy Folkertsma, manager of 60-site Pineglen RV Park about three-quarters of a mile off the Gulf in Panama City Beach, Fla. In mid-July, she said, the park was 75% occupied with the third July weekend fully booked.
”People call and ask us and I tell them the beaches are fine,” said Folkertsma. “For every cancellation that I get, I get another person calling for a reservation.”
On the other hand, Judy Hezik, manager Baywood Campground, a 117-site RV resort 1 1/2 miles from the beach in Gulfport, Miss., said the phone hasn’t been ringing like it usually does. ”Business definitely has slowed down a lot — probably 30%,” she said. ”People assume there’s so much oil on our beaches that they don’t even call.”
Hezik said that while the winter season typically is busier than summertime at Baywood, “we usually get a flow of RVers, but that’s not happening right now. We need the negative publicity to stop.”
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) reports that its 50 company-owned and franchised campgrounds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and Texas were down 1% through the middle of July compared to 2009. However, over the Independence Day holiday, those same facilities reported a 14% dropoff vs. the holiday weekend a year ago. ”We are complaining like everybody down there that the media hasn’t been very kind,” said Mike Gast, vice president of communications for KOA. ”People just aren’t taking the chance.”
Through June, by the same token, business is down 50% for the season at Perdido RV Resort in Perdido Key, Fla., an island on the Intercoastal Waterway 10 blocks from the Gulf in the Florida Panhandle.
But that began to change in July, according to owner Julian McQueen. ”It seems to be settling down a little bit,” McQueen said. ”We’ve seen our numbers come back a little bit in July. I don’t know why. Maybe people are taking a more reasonable look at this and whether the Gulf and the beaches having oil on them is an impactful as the media is portraying.”
After attending a meeting with Kenneth Feinstein, who is in charge of distributing $20 billion in aid to Gulf Coast residents and businesses from a special, independent fund set up by BP, McQueen said he is confident that campground owners applying for relief will receive compensation. “He made it clear he’s not working for BP or the (Obama) administration, but that he’s working for the Gulf,” McQueen said.
Indeed, Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the Florida and Alabama affiliates of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, said he has heard anecdotally that some campground owners already have begun receiving checks.
”I don’t know the exact numbers, but there are a few parks that have received some responses and some have received payment,” Cornwell said. ”It’s not been enough to cover losses, however.”
Cornwell said occupancy is down 50% at Camping on the Gulf in Destin, Fla., one of the few Florida parks with campsites right on the beach. ”The fact is,” Cornwell said, ”there is no oil on those beaches.”
“The media talks about the beaches as if everything is covered with oil and that’s not the case,” said Camping on the Gulf General Manager Pat O’Neill, who reported in a news release that negative national publicity is costing the park more than $3,000 a day in lost reservations.
The campground is trying to counter that perception with daily videos on its website (www.campgulf.com) that prove that the Gulf waters and its beach are clean.
Government agencies are taking the same tack.
While acknowledging scattered problems with oil along its 32 miles of beaches, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism have set up a special website (www.thebeachfacts.com) with a daily video reporting on beach conditions that is also posted on YouTube.
”The thought behind that was to provide accurate, verified information for our guests to deal with other than the noise from the media,” said Kim Chapman, the agency’s public relations manager.
In Mississippi, with 62 miles of beaches stretching through three counties, the Mississippi Development Authority is using $15 million received directly from BP to buy radio and TV spots aimed at vacationers in the southeastern states. ”We want people to know that our beaches are not covered with tar balls,” said Jennifer Spann, the authority’s public relations manager. The media perception is hurting us. Some parts of our beaches have been closed at times. But most of the beaches are open, and we are still encouraging people to come on down because there is still plenty to do.”
Mark Anderson, owner of 101-site Poche Plantation RV Resort on the banks of the Mississippi River in Convent, La., says the oil spill has hurt business more than he anticipated. ”We don’t have any oil problems, but business is off 30% to 35%,” he said. ”We don’t have any oil in our face, but we have oil in the minds of people coming down this way.
”The question I get a lot is ‘if I can smell the oil?’ I tell them ‘no.’ People think that if they come down here, they are going to get oil on their rigs (RVs).”
Cornwell, for his part, said the owner of Anchors Aweigh in Foley, Ala., reported that business is off by about 50% for the season. ”A lot of their business is from people going deep sea fishing and they are usually full this time of year,” Cornwell said. ” People who live nearby are coming as usual, but most of the campers who are coming from up north are assuming the worst and don’t want to take the chance. The area is having a horrible summer. Local restaurants have closed down and many of the condos are empty.”
In Texas, Gulf Coast campgrounds are reporting that business hasn’t been affected by the oil spill, according to Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
He reported that tar balls that showed up on some Texas beaches in mid-July didn’t come directly from the oil spill. ”The Fourth of July was fantastic,” Schaeffer said. ”Texas campgrounds that rely on water tourism are doing great. They seem at this point not to be concerned.”
The white trailers used to house hundreds of thousands of people following hurricane Katrina are reportedly making a second appearance.
The government banned the sale of the trailers for health reasons, and some fear contractors along the Gulf Coast may be overlooking a potentially dangerous situation, according to WAFB-TV, Baton Rouge, La.
U.S. Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Charlie Melancon, D-La., are trying to put the brakes on contractors who have apparently started selling the campers to oil spill relief workers to use as living quarters.
“It’s stunning on one hand, but not surprising this has been characteristic of everything that has occurred since day one,” said Markey. Melancon says that workers are spending all day in toxic fumes and oil could be returning to trailers that cause a number of health problems.
The trailers have serial numbers and are supposed to bear stickers indicating they were Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) formaldehyde trailers, and buyers are supposed to sign a waiver stating they are aware of the health risks involved.
Melancon and Markey aren’t convinced that has happened. They are worried those identifiers may have been removed from the trailers before they were sold. “It’s not like a mattress where they’ve taken off the warning label,” said Markey. “This is more like a pack of cigarettes that is harmful to people’s health that is now being used to house people’s health.”
When asked about the potential dangers to oil spill cleanup workers living in the trailers, Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Erin Brewer said it is too early to tell. “This is the beginning of the story and it’s not clear to me how long the oil response workers will be in the trailers and what the other risk factors are for health problems,” said Brewer.
The U.S. General Services Administration released a statement Friday evening stating the agency’s Office of Real Property will send an email to travel trailer buyers. It reminds them that they must notify anyone who buys the trailer in the future that it was once a FEMA trailer and that it is against the law to use it as housing.
As Americans gear up for the Fourth of July weekend, coastal areas affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are working hard to keep beach-bound travelers informed, CNN reported today (July 2).
Here are some of the latest updates from destinations affected by the oil disaster:
A health advisory was issued Thursday for all beaches in Escambia County, including Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and parts of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, according to the Pensacola Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website.
Extensive oil sheen, tar balls and mousse prompted the advisory urging visitors to avoid contact with oil on shore and in the water.
The water along the Santa Rosa Sound on the north side of Santa Rosa Island remains open for swimming.
The Okaloosa County Health Department withdrew a health advisory issued June 24 for Destin beaches.
“The oil impacts on our beaches are intermittent and can change within hours or within a day due to the dynamic nature of the currents and changing wind directions,” the department said in a news release rescinding the advisory.
The department urges visitors to avoid entering the water when oil is present.
Large amounts of oil washing ashore prompted the Walton County Health Department to issue a health advisory Wednesday for beaches in Topsail Hill State Park, according to the area’s Tourist Development Council.
All of the county’s beaches remain open, the council’s website said.
Meanwhile, small, scattered tar balls and oil patches have affected Panama City Beach, but the beaches and water are open, the area’s visitors bureau website said.
Oil has not been reported onshore in the state beyond northwest Florida, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism corporation.
Stronger winds and surf from Tropical Storm Alex have increased oiling on Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, according to the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“While the storm does not directly affect our area, it is having an impact on the amount of oil reaching our shores and limiting the ability for cleanup,” the bureau’s website said.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has issued an advisory against swimming in waters off Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, and in bay waters close to Fort Morgan, Bayou St. John, Terry Cove, Cotton Bayou and Old River.
Waters off beaches flying double red flags are officially closed.
Last week, the department also issued a no-swimming advisory for Dauphin Island and the Mississippi Sound.
South Mississippi beaches experienced significant oiling on Sunday and Monday, according to the Mississippi Gulf Coast visitors bureau.
Advisories have been issued for two areas along the beaches in Jackson and Harrison counties. The beaches are not closed, but state officials “advise people to be aware of their surroundings while recreating.” Visitors should avoid contact with oil.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
All of the Gulf Islands National Seashore sites, which are in Florida and Mississippi, are open, the National Park Service’s website said.
But several spots have been affected by the oil spill, and a public health advisory is in effect parkwide.
“If you see or smell oil in the water or on the beach, avoid contact with water and report it to the nearest lifeguard or park ranger,” the park service’s website said.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
The oil’s biggest impact in Louisiana is on the portion of the coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River extending east, according to a state emergency website.
“Most of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, 70 percent, is unaffected by the oil spill and remains open for commercial and recreational fishing,” according to the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau website.
Grand Isle has closed its public beach, the site said.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that it appears the oil spill in the Gulf is having an effect on travelers’ July 4 plans.
On Priceline’s annual list of top Independence Day destinations, New Orleans, which ranked No. 1 last year, dropped to 26th spot this year. And Destin, Fla., typically a popular Gulf location during July 4, fell off the list entirely.
Each year, Priceline tracks hotel-room purchases over the holiday weekend, using data from its “name your own price” services, for which travelers must prepay their hotel reservation. The most-popular destinations this year are the Millennium Park, Loop & Grant Park area in Chicago, Downtown St. Louis, Mo., the Harbor Front and Aquarium neighborhood in Boston, the southern downtown area of Toronto, and the North Michigan Avenue and River North area of Chicago. Last year, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Seattle occupied the top five spots.
While the Gulf Coast tourism market is feeling the financial crunch of the oil spill, some Alabama campgrounds are beginning to see some of those tourists set up camp in Covington County, according to the Andalusia (Ala.) Star-News.
As always, three of the campgrounds in Covington County, which borders the Florida Panhandle – Frank Jackson State Park in Opp, Florala State Park and Sweet Home Alabama Campground – are booked or nearly booked for the upcoming holiday weekend.
And two of the three said campers are utilizing their facilities and forgoing beaches impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
“I know there was one family who cancelled their Destin plans and came here,” Thom Watson of the Sweet Home Alabama Campground said. “I’ve had six or eight calls in the past two weeks (regarding the facilities in light of the oil spill).”
Watson said he anticipates that number will rise as the both the summer travel and the number of impacted areas continues to increase.
At Florala State Park, Lola Becker said she’s seen some campers choose to stay in Florala rather than the beach.
“There are some that have been here because of the oil spill,” she said. “We’re having a lot of people. We don’t now if it’s because of the oil spill; we do have a lot of our regulars.”
Becker said the campground is booked for the July 4 weekend and the weekend after it.
While Opp’s Frank Jackson State Park officials haven’t specifically seen any campers using their facilities because of the oil spill, they are reporting a good number of campers.
Park worker Chris Jones said he the park is booked for the holidays.
“We’re usually booked for the weekend,” he said. “The best way to do it here is to make a reservation.”
The July 4 holiday weekend is usually one of the biggest beach weekends of the year, and Gulf Coast hotels, condos and other property rentals are offering discounts and other promotions to try and make up for the profits that have been lost.
In fact, one of the largest vacation rental companies in the Destin, Fla.-area is offering discounts to those who will stay five nights or longer through the July 4 holiday.
The company is even offering a 100% refund if the county closes a beach for safety reasons.
Click here to watch a video about the following resort.
For weeks, Pam Hillman heard incessant news reports about BP’s oil spill and how it was devastating beaches along the Gulf Coast.
But when she arrived at Camping on the Gulf in Destin, Fla,. for her family’s annual vacation last week, there was no oil to be found.
“The news in Alabama keeps saying the beaches are all covered and I come down here and I don’t see any of it,” Hillman said in a news release. “It’s just beautiful here. There is no oil in sight.”
That’s a message Camping on the Gulf and other beachfront campgrounds, RV parks and resorts would like people across the country to hear. “The media talks about the beaches as if everything is covered with oil and that’s not the case,” said Camping on the Gulf General Manager Pat O’Neill, whose park is half empty due to consistently inaccurate reporting about extent to which the oil spill is affecting Gulf Coast beaches.
In fact, since the oil spill began there has only been one day when tar balls showed up on the beach in front of Camping on the Gulf, and those were immediately picked up by county crews, O’Neill said.
In an effort to counter misleading media reports, Camping on the Gulf posts daily video clips on its website at www.CampGulf.com, which include detailed footage of the beaches, the surf as well as interviews with RV resort guests who provide their own commentary regarding the cleanliness of the beaches, while encouraging people to come down and enjoy the Gulf Coast.
O’Neill said he had no choice but to post the daily videos because inaccurate and sensational media reports are prompting people to cancel their reservations.
“Normally, we’re booked solid all summer long and have to turn people away. But right now, we’re sitting at 50% occupancy,” O’Neill said, adding that misleading news reports involving the effects of the oil spill are costing Camping on the Gulf more than $3,000 a day in lost reservations.
“I feel bad for all the companies that have lost business as a result of the oil spill,” Hillman said, adding that her family has come to Camping on the Gulf every summer for the past 11 years.
Fortunately, O’Neill said, there are plenty of Camping on the Gulf guests who are willing to share their experiences about camping on beaches that, so far at least, have not been negatively affected by the spill.
“The beach is wonderful,” said Kent Calfee, a Camping on the Gulf vacationer from Tennessee during a video interview last Thursday. “Everybody needs to come on down because it’s a great time on the beach.”
“The water color here is excellent,” said Daniel Reyes, a Houston, Texas-area resident who was interviewed on video by Camping on the Gulf on Friday. “We’ve been here a little over a week and everything has been absolutely wonderful.”
Camping on the Gulf has 201 RV sites and 19 park model cabins and cottages, which are available for rent. For more information about the park, visit its website.
Campgrounds and RV resorts along the Gulf of Mexico — along with the communities in which they are located — are fighting the perception that the BP oil spill has fouled beaches to the point that they can’t be used.
That, they report, is simply not the case.
”Right now, we have a media problem, not an oil problem,” said Julian MacQueen, owner of Perdido RV Resort in Perdido Key, Fla., an island on the Intercoastal Waterway 10 blocks from the Gulf in the Florida Panhandle. ”But it goes back to the old adage that perception is reality. There’s a sense that the beaches are full of oil. They are not.”
Because of the constant hammering by the national media, MacQueen maintained that business in mid-June at Perdido RV Resort is off 20% from the same time a year ago. ”The oil probably is going to come, yes,” he said. ”But it’s not here yet.”
BP’s Deep Horizon oil platform exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and creating an oil gusher that the company has had a difficult time controlling.
To combat the perception, many Gulf Coast tourism bureaus and businesses are offering tourist discounts and ”clean-beach guarantees” promising that if any beaches are closed due to the oil spill, guests can receive 100% of their reservation deposit back.
At Campers Inn in Panama City Beach, with 97 RV sites 300 feet off the Gulf in the Florida Panhandle, co-Manager Jennifer Hagler, said callers inquiring about conditions in mid-June are referred to a live Internet feed (www.pcbeach.org) of the local beaches set up by the Panama Beach Chamber of Commerce.
”We do not have any oil right now and we do not expect to have any oil,” Hagler said. ”People are concerned, and we are having some cancellations. But for every cancellation we get, we have two more people who call for reservations.”
While the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) is standing by to assist Gulf Coast members any with public relations issues that may surface, the organization has had no takers yet. ”We haven’t heard much from the parks down there at all,” said ARVC President Linda Profaizer.
Still, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg, owner of Red Apple Campground in Arundel, Maine, said the national association ”obviously is very concerned” about the effect of the spill on campgrounds in the area.
”But it’s not just the campgrounds (that are affected),” he said. ”The camper is hurt more than one way. If a camper goes down to the sea coast area, they can’t fish or go sight seeing on the ocean because providers don’t want to take their equipment into that water.”
”Obviously, the campground and resorts on the coast have been affected,” said Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the ARVC state affiliates in Florida and Alabama, adding that the owner of one campground in the Dustin, Fla., who didn’t want to be identified, reported occupancy in mid-June down 30% from last year.
”They are experiencing some severe losses and June and July are looking worse than May,” Cornwell said.
In Sarasota, Fla., on the Sunshine State’s West Coast, the 1,500-site Sun-N-Fun RV Resort, had seen no effect from the spreading oil slick or resultant publicity, according to Cornwell. ”In all reality, the beaches are fine,” Cornwell said. ”There are some small tar balls washing but, it’s minor.”
Further down the Florida coast in Punta Gorda, Gerald German, manager of 166-site Alligator Park, is ”not particularly worried” about the tourism impact of the spill. ”There’s no sign of oil yet,” German said, ”but there is a general concern because of a lot of uncertainty.”
Occupancy at Anchors Aweigh RV Resort in Foley, Ala., seven miles north of the Gulf Coast, was down in May shortly after the oil rig collapse, but had picked up by early June. ”Most of the cancellations (at Anchors Aweigh) have been from customers outside the state,” Cornwell reported.
Following the April explosion, Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC, operator of Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, a motorhome resort in Foley, took it upon itself to coordinate a volunteer cleanup effort.
However, after signing up 5,000 volunteers, only 250 were chosen by BP to work on beach cleanup. ”We have stopped signing up names,” said Tripp Keber, Bella Terra COO. ”There is some very rigorous training involved. You can’t just go down to the beach and start working.”
Bella Terra also is donating 10% of its net proceeds from sales and rentals to the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program that has set up the Coastal Estuary Restoration Fund to help clean up the Alabama coast. ”It’s not tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s thousands, and it will help,” Keber said.
With regard to lot sales at Bella Terra, Keber said that people who have signed contracts. in some cases, ‘now want to wait-and-see what happens.”
He said, however, that Bella Terra customers typically aren’t beach-goers. ”Most of our guests just sit and relax at the resort,” he said. ”But having it (headlines about the offshore drilling mishap)in your face all the time doesn’t help.”
Like MacQueen in Florida, Keber is of a mind that media coverage has hurt the Gulf region, even as cleanup crews are working to remove tar balls that have washed up on Gulf Shore and Orange beaches. ”The press didn’t create the situation, but the 24-hour CNN live feed of oil bubbling up is not helping us,” he said.
In Biloxi, Miss., Lois Shoemaker, co-owner of Oakland RV Park, a 49-site campground eight miles from the Gulf that opened in 2008, said that weekly reservations slacked off after the oil spill. ”We had built up a lot of weekly visitors, but they’ve slacked off,” she said. ”Reservations have picked up a little bit this week, but not for any more than a night or so.”
Robert Castoro, owner of Bay Marina and RV in Bay St. Louis, Miss., said ”business is off, there’s no doubt about that.”
While the 35-site park remains occupied, mostly with full-time rentals, ancillary business traffic associated with the marina has been hurt. ”The weekend fishing is off,” Castoro said. ”People just aren’t showing up to buy ice and bait.”
He’s also skeptical that very much money in the $20 billion escrow account BP is setting up will reach people like him.
”Mr. Obama says he’s going to make BP pay,” Castoro said. ”That means the government will get it all. The little guy won’t get anything.”
The situation, meanwhile, is apparently affecting campgrounds hundreds of miles from the Gulf Coast that normally serve as way stations for travelers.
”We are a stop for people from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio who are heading to the Gulf,” said Shirley Hale, co-owner with her husband, Warren, of 75-site Cullman Campground 300 miles north of the Gulf in Cullman, Ala. ”We are not seeing many people going in that direction with children who are taking vacations, it seems like. But our business is holding.”
On the Western side of the Gulf, Texas campgrounds had not been affected by mid-June, according to Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
”We’ve had no issues,” Schaeffer said. ”Fortunately — or unfortunately — everything is going the other direction.”
Schaeffer said that shortly after the oil spill state and local officials met to look at cautionary measures. ”The big concern for us is that we are in hurricane season and if we have a hurricane, all bets are off. We have no idea where it would go,” Schaeffer said.
The British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted several class action lawsuits involving hundreds of clients in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida as tourism business has floundered, according to WLOX-TV, Biloxi, Miss.
At the Cajun RV Park in Biloxi, business has been watered down by the threat of oil. Spaces that are normally full sit empty.
Jonathan Mikovich runs the park and said business is down 35% this month alone. When potential campers call, Mikovich said the spill is a topic of concern.
“I would say most of the people are mentioning it, but overall I think are just looking for another destination to go totally because they don’t want to have it impact their only week off of vacation they get.”
Texan Earl Miller is staying at the park with family members. He said he’s enjoying the southern hospitality, and has plans to go golfing.
“We made the decision to come down here before the oil spill started. And once we thought about it, we wouldn’t be actually using the beaches that much, and we didn’t think it would affect our golf.”
The manager of the RV park in Biloxi has not taken litigation against BP off the table. He doesn’t want to go to court, but Mikovich said if he continues to lose revenue, he may have no choice.
“If revenue is being off as much as we are thinking it’s going to be, we could absolutely do that,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials with BP promise every legitimate claim of financial loss will be paid.