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Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 12:40pm

Oil Sends Gulf Tourists to Georgia

The Gulf Coast oil spill could give an unexpected bump to Georgia tourism as visitors seek assurance for their long-term plans.

Vacation rental managers on the coast say, the potential for soiled Gulf Coast beaches has prompted calls and bookings.

Kris Maichle of Hodnett Cooper rentals on St. Simons Island says, visitors switching destinations tell him, they're uncertain about the spill's track and don't want to take a chance on the Gulf.

"Much like we are here, it's a heavy drive-in market," Maichle says. "So, unlike Hawaii, where you'd have to deal with changing flights and things like that, they're able to just re-direct their car east instead of heading south."

Amy Gaster of Tybee Vacation Rentals says, she's received dozens of calls from visitors changing their plans because of the oil slick.

"I would say about 10% of our call volume right now is a result of the oil spill," Gaster says. "We're getting calls about it daily, but it's not the majority of our business right now."

Both managers say, they expect this summer to be better than last summer.

But it has more to do with the economy and other factors.

Both say, a disaster, like a hurricane, easily could happen in Georgia, as well.

So, they're sensitive not to market specifically based on the spill.

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