As the BP Deepwater Horizon saga nears three months since the initial spill, visitors and tourism pros alike are clamoring to salvage some of the peak summer season in the Gulf Coast and Florida. To calm travelers’ nerves – and maintain customer loyalty – a few hotel brands are dishing up full-refund guarantees to visitors who booked a beachside trip and wound up on an oil-strewn beach (or worse yet, one the feds already closed). We’ve combed through a few of the best policies, so whether you’re plotting a trip down south or plan to nix a visit to the Gulf altogether, you’ll want to scan these offers first.
Amelia Island Plantation
Vacationers booked at Amelia Island Plantation could score a pretty sweet deal if oil reaches the 3.5 mile stretch of sand on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The plantation’s “Oil Free Guarantee” promises a full refund on all deposits if the Department of Environment Protection closes the beach, credit to any current guests when the beach is closed, and 20 percent off rescheduled vacations any time within the next year.
Dubbed the “Beach Satisfaction” guarantee, Hilton is eliminating cancellation fees at nearly 100 of its Gulf Coast hotels from now until July 31 for any travelers who cancel or change reservations because of the spill. The offer applies to all Hilton brands – including Double Tree, Hampton Inn, Hilton Hotels, Homewood Suites, and Waldorf – and it also waives early departure fees if any oil reaches the surf during your visit.
Although stricter than Hilton’s offer, Orbitz’s “Open Beach Guarantee” still gives travelers a full refund on any unused nights at more than 100 Florida properties from now until July 31. The catch here: The money-back offer only works if the government closes or declares dangerous any beaches within 20 miles of the hotel. Plus, the guarantee just covers stand-alone reservations, which means rooms booked through vacation packages aren’t eligible for any refunds.
Panama City Beach
The Panama City Beach visitor’s bureau went ahead and did most of the grunt work for any worried travelers. The site’s “Clean Beach Guarantee” is not actually a citywide policy but a guide to the area hotels that will refund any oil-spoiled holidays. Right now, at least 24 properties have told the bureau that they’ll give travelers some cash back, but always call ahead if you’re concerned.