Sunbathing amid the cleanup on Pensacola Beacho [Photo: Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT]
The first major assault of oil came ashore along some eight miles at Pensacola Beach on June 23. Said Visit Pensacola director Ed Schroeder: "Before today we were looking at 20% declines in June, July and August; today we got hammered." At Pensacola Beach, June occupancy through June 22 at Highpointe Hotel Corp.'s Springhill Suites by Marriott was down from 92.7% a year ago to 79.06% this year.
Santa Rosa County: Oil inquiries are up, discounts are common and bookings are down at condo/hotels at Navarre Beach. "But the impact is broader than just hotels and condo vacation hotels; the restaurants and the shopping places may not be as busy," says Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Arnett. Says Lark Harms, co-owner of Lark Nest restaurant at Navarre Beach, just opened in January: "I'm cutting labor. That's all I can do."
Okaloosa County: "2010 was to be the year to return to milk and honey" after two lackluster years, says Bruce Craul, COO at Emerald Grande Hotel. June occupancy, through June 21, was down 16% from last year — and Legendary's boat sales have stopped, golf is down and most fishing areas are closed, Craul notes. At The Breakers condo/hotel on Okaloosa Island, business was down 37% in May. By mid-June, occupancy was 22% for the July 4th weekend, general manager Kathy Houchins said.
Walton County: Convention and association business remains strong, says Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort spokesperson Laurie Hobbs, and the resort is seeing an increase in weekend traffic. Notes Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council executive director Dawn Moliterno: "We do know people are waiting longer on choices and decision, so they can monitor the situation."