Representatives from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Tallahassee, Monroe County, the City of Key West, and the United States Coast Guard Sector Key West let local restaurant, bar, and hotel managers and owners know the tactics they’re employing to make sure tourism isn’t lost due to erroneous television and radio reports. As the Weekly Newspapers found out, the media moves are dramatic, but so is the looming loss in dollars.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. Everyone, of course, always says these types of things. It’s what people want to hear. What they’re saying is the truth but whether they can exact what they’re saying remains to be seen.”
Art Levin, manager of the Hog’s Breath Saloon remains unconvinced he’ll be able to recoup his revenue dollars due to people canceling or deciding not to vacation to the Keys at all because the process of being able to actuate the losses is still unclear to him.
“That’s what’s hard. I would really like to see the criteria they laid down to say, ‘this is what you need to show us so we can start the process of compensation.’”
On the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Speidel, manager of the Casa Maria attests they’re solid. They are booked for the Memorial Day weekend. But, unfortunately, future bookings aren’t holding pace with year’s past.
“We’re down half for one week’s bookings,” Speidel explains. “We are down.”
To calm fears the hotel has implemented a “Clean Beach Guarantee”. If oil does appear in our ocean, or tarballs wash ashore in numbers, which divert from the beauty of the beaches, the Casa Marina is not going to charge the guest for their room and tax, as the resort should.
Florida is the number one tourist state in the nation. An economic engine, which (in Monroe County alone), has over 5,000 restaurants and hotels, and hosts 80 million visitors every year, generating $60 billion in sales revenue.
“We will let the world know we are not having a problem,” assured County Commissioner Mario DiGennaro.
To compound Commissioner DiGennaro’s words, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has launched a global advertisement campaign, taking out ads in USA Today that reads, “Our Coast is Clear,” and television spots which send the same message: Come here to fish, SCUBA dive, and sit on our beach.
$25 million dollars of BP’s money is being used by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association to fund the campaign.
“All you need is your sunscreen,” confirmed Carol Dover, president and CE of the FRLA.
“I feel it’s a bit dubious that these millions dollars that are loss because of erroneous media reports are being spent back within the very media that create them to help fix this problem,” offered Art.
“Last night’s media said there was a screeching halt to summer booking for June, July, and August”, solidifies Speidel. “Guests are calling to get accurate information to see what is happening on the beach.”
We get that information from U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West Captain Pat DeQuattro.
“100 tarballs unrelated and from multiple sources have been discovered, and has not forced any beach closures. This has introduced an opportunity to clean up the beach. We have contractors out there right now. The beaches are open and the reports of pollution have stopped. The community is doing the right thing by reporting the tarballs, and we are using opportunity to prepare for any potential impacts.”
Victoria Peet Williams, consumer outreach coordinator of the southeast region of division of consumer services advises the managers use historical records when filing claims.
“A dip, a rise, you can prove that with historical records. You might have to go back maybe five years to get a true component.”
Many people are trying to make claims on their business interruption service, but many insurance companies are finding this is not a covered event.
One of BP’s public information officers Andrew Van Chau announces many claims have already been claimed.
“Once you’re in the system, once you have additional claims you just forward that in We’re trying to be as legitimate as possible and as streamlined as possible to process legitimate claims.”
Chau wouldn’t disclose to the Weekly Newspapers how much money BP has earmarked for claims. Also, when pressed on how the oil giant is going to make-up for assumed hundreds of millions of dollars Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill will cost them, Chau would not speculate.
“You’re asking me questions to make assumptions of what will happen in the future.”
Levin says, at this juncture, until he, his office staff, and owners take a deep breathe at the Hog’s Breath, and crunch the numbers, all he can do is speculate.
“How do you know who wasn’t coming anyway? Right? It’s very, very difficult.”
BP has set up a hotline to call to make business claims. (800) 440-0858. At the time of print, according to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West Captain Pat DeQuattro announced tarballs have been found from the Dry Tortugas to the Upper Keys. All tests have come back negative to any linkage to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Chrissy Hughes, a concierge at the Casa Marina, offers suggestions to Amy Stokes of Mandeville, Louisiana on where to dine that evening.
Reservations for Memorial Day weekend were already at 94% the Monday before. Zynzanna Piceno, Brandon Kuhn, and Arantzazu Cruz are in place to field questions from potential guests and those who have already booked their rooms.
Key West City Commissioner Teri Johnston, County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, FRLA Chair Keith Overton, County Commissioner Mario DiGennaro, State Representative Ron Saunders (D-Tavernier), Senator Jeff Atwater, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West Captain Pat DeQuattro, and Casa Marina Manager/FRLA Monroe Chapter President Kevin Speidel listen to Key West Mayor Craig Cates address the crowd.