The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is starting to have a significant impact on meetings in the area, according a new report by The Knowland Group, a McLean, Va.–based meetings and hospitality industry research company. A May 18 survey of 50 hotels across the Gulf Coast that host meetings and events found that 42 percent are experiencing group booking cancellations, the report says.

The number of cancellations is up 7 percent from a survey the company did two weeks earlier, on May 6.

About 64 percent of hotels surveyed said the impact on future bookings is minimal, according to the new study. About 8 percent said the impact on future bookings is expected to be moderate, while 14 percent said it would be significant. However, some hotels are experiencing an uptick in bookings due to the influx of media, environmental groups, petroleum industry officials, and other transient guests.

“Right now the spill seems to be impacting bookings [over] the next six months, which gives hoteliers time to plan ahead to ensure they maintain business,” said Mike McKeon, chief executive officer at The Knowland Group. “If things do get worse, hoteliers should consider new ways to proactively increase their sales and needed revenue.”

Roughly 56 percent of hotels surveyed blamed the “media hype” for decreased bookings, with 48 percent citing the potential effect on the beaches, and only 14 percent citing guest concerns about a potential petroleum odor in the air, according to the survey.