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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Planning trips in wake of disasters

This time last week I found myself closely monitoring news of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as we plan a trip to the Florida Panhandle for late June. Now, after spending a weekend in rain-drenched and flooded Middle Tennessee, my travel thoughts also include Nashville.

I don't think I can compare these disasters to the tragedies brought by the terrorism acts of Sept. 11 and the devastation along the Gulf Coast brought by Hurricane Katrina. But in a purely travel sense -- the reason for this blog -- there are similarities.

New York recovered, but it wasn't immediate. Same for New Orleans, although many would argue that city will never be the same.

Considering the Gaylord Opryland Resort is the largest hotel and convention center in Nashville, I think it's safe to assume convention business is questionable for the time being there. The Opryland hotel could be closed for several months. Where will those already scheduled conventions go? If Nashville loses even some of its convention business that will be a major hit to the local economy there.

I read earlier that some of Nashville's attractions could begin reopening this weekend. And with the country music fan festival still scheduled to take place in June, there is hope that a drop in tourism in Nashville will be just a blip.

The Gulf of Mexico is a trickier situation. The oil spill hasn't reached land yet other than some scattered reports in Louisiana. But if or when it does, what will it mean for that area? Some reports have total devastation because of what it could mean for the seafood and travel industries among others.

The sands along the Gulf are still white. But will that change? How long will it take to clean up if the oil does wash ashore?

But maybe it doesn't wash ashore. Maybe as it drifts toward the beaches the booms they've put in place keep the slick back. I've read reports of the oil's putrid smell. When I'm sitting beachside in a couple of months will I still smell the beautiful saltiness blowing in on the breeze or will it be the rank smell of oil? Will I be able to step foot in the waters? Will there be any fresh seafood at all the seafood restaurants? Or will I find myself ordering the chicken nuggets off the kid's menu?

And I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the environmental damage to the marshes along the coast.

Too many questions abound and I don't even know where to begin to look for the answers.

I do recommend, though, if you have planned a trip to the coast for this summer or are thinking about it, don't be too quick to cancel your plans. Be smart and don't join the rush to judgement. Those coastal communities need our tourism dollars.

There are some informative websites out there and I recommend you peruse them. The first stop should be Deepwater Horizon Response. This is a great site with everything related to the cleanup efforts. It has daily updates, pictures and links to state information.

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