Visitors stay away from beach rentals

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

Dawson, GA (WALB) –  While the oil hasn't been a permanent fixture on Florida's beaches, talk of it has been enough to scare many tourists away.

Local southwest Georgia property owners with rental homes on the Gulf say they've continued to lose bookings, especially those wanting to fish.

Some beach property owners say they're reducing their rental fees in hopes of enticing tourist willing to brave the threat of oil. Some are also filing claims with BP to recoup some of the bookings they've lost.

Vann Phillips family bought a foreclosed home on Holiday Isle in Destin in January, hoping the investment would start paying off this summer. "It's a fisherman's paradise, it was rented throughout most of the summer," he said.

The oil smell over the weekend kept his family indoors and has dashed those hopes. He's lost seven weeks of bookings from people from Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. "We're returning the people's checks, that's what we already had to do," said Phillips.

In the last week he met with BP Claim representatives who gave him a claim number. "They say that they will reimburse what we have lost and if that's so, we'll find out."

He's encouraged other owners to file a claim along with Oil Fund Czar Kenneth Feinberg who promised to get claims processed quicker.

"The top message is the message conveyed to me by the president and the administration. We want to get these claims out quicker. We want to get these claims out with more transparency so people have more certainty as to what they're going to receive," said Feinberg.

The Phillips will wait until the end of the month to file their claim for June in hopes someone else might take the booking. "I still feel people will want to come, they don't have to be fishermen to come, they have so many attractions there in the Destin area."

On the first day of summer, they're hoping the entire vacation season won't be a total loss.

For visitors worried about making a trip to the gulf beaches because of the oil, several of the counties have set up hotlines with information about the conditions. We've put a link to those pages on our website at

BP has received 64,000 claims so far. They've issued checks for less than half of those claims. The average time from filing a claim to checks being issued is four days for individuals and seven days for business claims.

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