Concerned travelers don’t need to rush to cancel their Gulf Coast vacations. In an effort to persuade people to keep their travel plans (and to entice others to book rooms) in spite of the BP oil spill, many Gulf Coast businesses are offering oil-free guarantees to patrons.
Hotels, realtors and travel agencies in the affected areas have instituted new 24-hour cancellation policies, which issue a full refund to travelers if a government agency or state authority officially shuts down their beach. Other organizations and chains are offering refunds if a traveler so much as spots oil on its beach.
Travel search engines such as Expedia , TripAdvisor and Orbitz are offering similar oil-free guarantees with their hotel partnerships.
"Expedia recognizes the situation is developing and could change. We do not charge Expedia change/cancel fees if our customers need to alter their plans. Many of our partners are also instituting flexibility policies," Katie Deines Fourcin, spokesperson for Expedia told SmartTravel.com.
These generous new policies exist because, contrary to popular belief, many Gulf Coast hotspots have not yet been affected by the oil spill. Expedia, for example, has set up a Web site so travelers see if their vacation destination is oil-free. Prospective Gulf tourists should monitor this site (or one of the many like it) to avoid unnecessary cancellations, especially since it’s not as easy abandon your airfare. Airlines aren’t currently offering oil-free guarantees and even vacationers who purchased travel insurance can have a hard time getting refunds for their tickets.
“Travel insurance provides very little coverage for the oil spill,” Damian Tysdal of Travel Insurance Review Inc. tells MainStreet. “It is not a natural disaster, nor weather-related. Rather, it is a manmade disaster for which there is no specific coverage language.”