Traveling to the Gulf of Mexico

TravelAge West provides a resource guide for travel agents when booking travel to the beleaguered Gulf of Mexico region By: Monica Poling

Although by all accounts a special containment cap installed by BP has successfully contained the massive leak that had been spewing what has been estimated at tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, questions continue as to just how much oil has —and will — end up along the popular travel destinations found within the Gulf of Mexico.

With near-constant media images of oil-slicked beaches in the area, travelers are understandably nervous about continuing with their summer vacation plans to the region, which includes such popular destinations as Pensacola, Gulfport, Biloxi, Gulf Shores and even New Orleans.

However, as many of the of the areas continue to report little or no impact from the oil spill and with the region scrambling to preserve what it can of its important travel industry, now may be exactly the time for your clients to consider a Southern getaway. Heck, even the Obama family will be vacationing in the area later this month.

While only the agent can determine whether a Gulf vacation is appropriate for their clients, the following resource guide can provide them with the most current conditions along the Gulf region.

=======================================================
Alabama
=======================================================

Alabama Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-745-SAND (7263)
info@gulfshores.com

www.gulfshores.com
www.orangebeach.com


Current Conditions Website(s)

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Daily Update
www.thebeachfacts.com

City of Gulf Shores Information & Advisories
www.gulfshoresal.gov/emergency/emergencyupdate.html

City of Orange Beach Information & Advisories
www.cityoforangebeach.com/pages_2007/bp_horizon_oil_spill_updates.php


Current Reported Conditions
“Effective July 30, the Alabama Department of Public Health has lifted the swimming advisory for gulf waters off Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan based on improvements in water conditions. However, the department warns that there may still be sporadic oil on or near the beaches and discourages individuals from entering waters if there is visible oil present.” (07/30/10)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mobile Bay/Dauphin Island
Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-5-Mobile
www.mobilebay.org

Current Conditions Website(s)
www.mobilebaytravelupdates.com

Current Reported Conditions
“Currently, everything is 'BUSINESS AS USUAL' in the Mobile area. The Mobile Bay area's many renowned attractions, hotels, restaurants, exhibits, events and retail businesses are operational, the Carnival ELATION is cruising as planned and our world-famous seafood is as delicious as ever! Visitors are encouraged to keep their travel plans to our historic port city - come dine on delicious seafood, visit our local retailers and spend some time in beautiful Mobile Bay. ” (07/30/10)


=======================================================
Florida
=======================================================

Visit Florida
Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation
866-972-5280
www.visitflorida.com/about_visit_florida

Current Conditions Website(s)
www.visitflorida.com/florida_travel_advisory

Current Reported Conditions
“NOAA announced today that a new analysis shows Southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the East Coast are unlikely to experience any effects from the remaining oil on the surface of the Gulf as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The furthest east Florida has seen impacts from the oil spill is just east of the Gulf/Bay County line. Although sporadic sightings of tar balls have been reported, Northwest Florida's shoreline is not expected to receive additional impacts over the next 72 hours. Nearly 90 percent of Florida's more than 1,260 miles of coastline remains unimpacted.” (07/30/10)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key
Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-874-1234
www.visitpensacola.com


Current Conditions Website(s)

Visit Pensacola
www.curiousaboutourcoast.com

Pensacola Beach
www.visitpensacolabeach.com/what/bp-oil-spill.asp

Santa Rosa Island Authority, Pensacola Beach, Email Alerts
www.sria-fla.com/e-alert-signup.php


Current Reported Conditions
“Beaches in Escambia County, including Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, remain open for swimming. Reports over the last several weeks have been of minimal impacts, typically scattered tar balls. The threat of oil to beaches has been greatly reduced due to the capping of the oil well and progress toward a permanent kill, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.” (7/30/10)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Beaches of South Walton
Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast
800-822-6877
www.beachesofsouthwalton.com

Current Conditions Websites
www.bswupdate.com

Current Reported Conditions
“All along the 26 miles of white sandy shoreline, Beaches of South Walton communities are open for enjoyment with no reports of oil this afternoon. Surf conditions are calm.

At the urging of the Florida Department of Health, the local health department has posted Oil Impact Notices at beach access points, advising beachgoers of health tips to follow if noticeable oil product is present. Beachgoers are advised to exercise personal judgment as conditions can change quickly.”


=======================================================
Louisiana
=======================================================

State of Louisiana Office of Tourism
www.louisianatravel.com


Current Conditions Website(s)

State of Louisiana Office of Tourism
http://oilspill.louisianatravel.com/office-tourism-update

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/?ID=207


Current Reported Conditions

“Much of the Louisiana Gulf Coast is unaffected by the oil spill and remains open for commercial and recreational fishing.

All Louisiana coastal parishes (counties) continue to offer travelers historic and cultural attractions, world-acclaimed indigenous food and music, and notable restaurants and overnight accommodations.

The primary area affected by the spill is around the southeast coast of Louisiana.” (07/30/10)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-LA-ROUGE
www.visitbatonrouge.com


Current Reported Conditions

“We are continuously monitoring the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Baton Rouge is located approximately 160 miles inland and we are operating business as usual with no anticipated impact on visitors.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lake Charles
Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-456-SWLA (7952)
info@lakecharles.org
www.visitlakecharles.org


Current Conditions Website(s)

www.visitlakecharles.org/visitors/outdoors/oilspill/


Current Reported Conditions

“Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana in Calcasieu Parish is currently not under immediate threat of oil entering its waters or Cameron Parish along the Gulf of Mexico, both home to the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Attractions, recreation, fishing, crabbing, shelling and nature photography are still viable and thriving along the Creole Nature Trail.” (07/30/10)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

New Orleans
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau
800-672-6124
internet@neworleanscvb.com
www.neworleanscvb.com


Current Conditions Website (s)

www.neworleanscvb.com/static/index.cfm/contentID/1406/hidenav/1


Current Reported Conditions

“As cleanup of the Gulf continues 100 miles away, New Orleans is continuing as one of the hottest tourist destinations in the United States.

All of the things that hundreds of thousands of visitors are coming in record numbers to enjoy in America's most authentic city, New Orleans, are unchanged by the heart-wrenching environmental issues in the Gulf and the presence of tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain earlier this month.” (07/30/10)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Louisiana’s North Shore
St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission
800-634-9443
mail@LouisianaNorthShore.com
www.LouisianaNorthShore.com


Current Conditions Website(s)

www.louisiananorthshore.com/blog/


Current Reported Conditions

“Despite reports this week that a small amount of tar balls have made their way into the easternmost area of Lake Pontchartrain, physical impact of the oil spill has been minimal on St. Tammany Parrish.” (07/25/10)


=======================================================
Mississippi
=======================================================

Mississippi’s West Coast
Hancock County Tourism and Visitor Center
800-466-9048
tourism@mswestcoast.org
www.mswestcoast.org

Mississippi Gulf Coast
Harrison County Tourism Commission
888-67-4853
www.gulfcoast.org

Ocean Springs
Ocean Springs Main Street Tourism Bureau
228-875-4424
mail@oceanspringschamber.com
www.oceanspringschamber.com


Current Conditions Website(s)

Mississippi’s West Coast Facebook Page
www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=76349735748

Harrison County (Gulfport, Biloxi)
www.gulfcoast.org/visitors/deepwaterupdates/

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
www.deq.state.ms.us/MDEQ.nsf/page/Main_OilSpillLinksandPublicInformation2010?OpenDocument


Current Reported Conditions

“Scattered incidents of tar balls reaching the main shoreline continue. A total of 20 cleanup crews are working daily to clean these beaches. Beach advisories remain in effect in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties. These beaches are not closed and beach goers may continue to use these beaches and enjoy water activities, but the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi State Department of Health advise people to be aware of their surroundings while recreating. Yes, you may be on the beach when cleanup crews are present.” (07/30/10)

>