For Florida tourism, greatest task is fighting perception of oil spill blackening its shores
Wake up and good morning. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill may still be 50 miles away from Florida's Panhandle coastline but that is not stopping the growing international perception that oil-tainted beaches are a serious possibility -- certainly enough to rethink summer commitments on where to spend a sun-soaked vacation.
Left, this photo shows workers unloading oil spill containment booms from a flatbed trailer on May 6 at the Panama City Marina in Panama City, Florida. U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Steve Caskey estimated the Coast Guard will deploy between 300,000 and 400,000 feet of boom in the water between Pensacola and Perry, Fla. (AP Photo/The News Herald/Panama City, Fla., Andrew Wardlow)
This story in The Telegraph, a leading British newspaper, is a solid piece on what's happening. It lays out the threat of an oil spill that has not yet happened to Florida, and cites the growing Florida tourism industry worry that a lot of people are going to redirect themselves elsewhere this summer in an abundance of financial caution. States the story:
"Uncertainty over the direction of the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the former BP rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded on April 20, has already resulted in a spate of cancellations from tourists unwilling to risk the chance of their holiday being ruined by tar-coated beaches."
Even a few Pinellas County beach resorts are starting to see some cancellations though it is hardly a trend so far. The greater worry is that people will simply never make a reservation in the first place.
Visit Florida, the state's official tourism body, has introduced an oil spill update page ("Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Update") on the group's web site, as well as links to the 102 tourism offices providing region-specific reports and advice. In its most recent update on the oil spill dated May 5 at 11 a.m. -- that's 45 hours ago! Maybe it should be more timely? -- here's what Visit Florida reports:
"Status: Currently, there are no impacts to Florida’s 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline and 663 miles of beaches. Our shores are clear and open for business."
Let's hope it stays that way.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist