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BP Business Economic Loss Claim Appeal 2016-640: Houma travel agency is tourism entity


The following is an Appeal Panel Decision issued pursuant to Section 6 of the BP Deepwater Horizon Economic & Property Damages Settlement Agreement and the Rules Governing the BP Appeals Process. Links may have been added to assist the reader. The original decision may be found here, as well as a glossary of BP Settlement terms.

Claimant, a travel agency in Houma, Louisiana, appeals the denial of its BEL claim on the basis it failed to satisfy the causation requirements of Exhibit 4B of the Settlement Agreement. Claimant asserts the Settlement Program(SP) wrongfully declined to assign its business a tourism designation, which if done for this zone B business, would have entitled it to presumptive causation and a monetary award.

BP posits the SP acted properly when it assigned NAICS code 56510 (Travel Agencies) to claimant which is excluded as a tourism business under Exhibit 2 of the Settlement Agreement. Claimant contends that Policy 289 v.2 recognizes that the NAICS code listing of Exhibit 2 is not all-controlling and that the list is illustrative and not exclusive. This policy also permits consideration of the totality of the circumstances relative to a claimant’s business operations in measuring the sufficiency of its tourism characteristics. Beyond these provisions claimant also invokes the provisions of Policy 480 that permits consideration of a claimant’s primary business activities to determine if a tourism connection is present. Claimant postulates when these two policies are applied to its overall business activities there is a sufficient basis to conclude claimant is engaged in the tourism business.

A review of the record discloses that claimant’s business is located in Houma, Louisiana, arguably not a tourist mecca or destination. Thus,under a portion of the tourism definition of Exhibit 2, claimant falls short of the mark since it is not “attracting” persons to travel there from their home communities. But the definition of tourism in Exhibit 2 is broader and more expansive and not as restrictive as BP urges. It also includes “businesses that provide services such as “accommodating or catering to the needs or wants of persons traveling to, or staying in places outside their home community.” This definition embraces then the citizens of the community of Houma who might wish to vacation elsewhere.

Obviously, a travel agency exists to assist would-be tourists to travel from their home communities to other destinations, whether foreign or domestic. The record reveals claimant assists local clients in traveling to and visiting tourist destinations, including various Gulf Coast venues such as Biloxi, Mississippi, Gulf Shores, Alabama,Destin, Florida, Panama City Beach, Florida, and Fort Myers, Florida; as well as to and from cruise ports such as Tampa, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana and Galveston, Texas. (This geographic feature is noted since BP argues that the Settlement Agreement requires a Gulf Coast tourism nexus.This panelist and one other panelist disagree with that argument but here such contention is mooted. BP also argues that in this regard claimant must show it suffered damage as a result of the oil spill incident of April 20,2010. If claimant is entitled to presumptive causation this argument fails.)

This panelist concludes the record establishes claimant is sufficiently engaged in tourism business activities in the Gulf Coast area that satisfy the tourism definition of Exhibit 2 of the Settlement Agreement. See also panel decision in claim number [XXXXX]. Accordingly,the decision of the Claims Administrator is vacated and set aside and remanded with directions that claimant be designated a tourism business entitled to presumptive causation and the claim processed thereafter as such.

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