The BP Effect series is brought to you by attorneys Reich & Binstock and Seeger Weiss LLP, which are helping businesses in Panama City Beach recover losses sustained directly and indirectly from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. They can help your business too,
“Sonny’s Oil Free Guarantee” was designed to reassure guests and customers that it was safe to travel to the beach. We had no oil on our beaches over the summer, but with the seemingly imminent threat and false reporting by national media on the condition of our beaches, travelers were scared to risk their annual vacation money on a Panama City Beach vacation. The “oil free guarantee” was a tactic used by businesses all up and down the beach to reassure their guests that they would not be obligated to keep their reservation and payment commitments should oil muck up their vacation on the Emerald Coast. It worked for some, but business was still down dramatically for Best Beach Getaways.
Best Beach Getaways is a vacation rental company on the Emerald Coast, with about 50% of their properties in Panama City Beach and 50% outside the Panama City Beach area. Most of their properties are Resort Condominiums, but they have a large selection of beach homes. They’ve been doing business in the area since 2007.
“We were on pace for a 40% business increase over 2009. We now anticipate a slightly better year than 2009,” said Jim DeVos, of Best Beach Getaways. This story is absolutely consistent with everyone else we’ve talked to. This, for most, was poised to be the best summer ever in Panama City Beach AND Northwest Florida. When missed opportunities are pondered, often teary eyes and emotional rushes ensue.
Immediately upon news breaking of the oil spill, they started seeing effects on their business. Not only had new rental inquiries stopped, the phone calls that WERE coming in were existing reservations canceling their summer vacation. Some had been coming every summer for years, this summer was the first break in their family tradition.
Customers’ reasons for canceling were simply: “We don’t want our vacation ruined by an oil spill which could close beaches.” Some save up all year to see the very thing that makes our area so magical, the very same element that we all so often take for granted – our crystal white sand beaches.
Before the oil spill, Best Beach was pacing 40% gains. They were literally booming. The Southwest Effect, hadn’t even had a chance to occur, but news of affordable fares and ease of access had begun to drastically change the perception of the area. People from all over the country were booking for summer. Best Beach Getaways did everything from offer incentives, clean beach guarantees, and consistently updating their blog to do all they could to counteract what was being said about us on mainstream media.
And, like igniting gun powder in an open wound, Best Beach Getaways is experiencing difficult pain working through the claims process in an attempt to reclaim some of their summer BP-related losses. If you remember, the BP claims process was supposed to reassure businesses that despite devastating losses, there would be some compensation.
DeVos explained to me that his regular customers that decided to risk everything and come to the beach anyway were not let down. We had a beautiful summer down here, and despite threats, we really didn’t have hardly any oil reported on our beaches at all. The ones that came, had the time of their lives.
Next season is already looking bright for Best Beach Getaways. Summer bookings are already rolling in from those that missed out this year. It’s too early to tell if next year’s gains will be what they could have been this summer, but time will tell, and can heal everything.