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$1 million ad campaign will fight belief that oil spill affected Pinellas beaches

While Frank and Joan Barnes of Ontario enjoyed the Pass-a-Grille beach one month after the April 2010 oil spill, out-of-state visitors fell. In-state visitors rose 33 percent, according to research for Pinellas’ convention and visitors bureau, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

DIRK SHADD | Times

While Frank and Joan Barnes of Ontario enjoyed the Pass-a-Grille beach one month after the April 2010 oil spill, out-of-state visitors fell. In-state visitors rose 33 percent, according to research for Pinellas’ convention and visitors bureau, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Pinellas County tourism officials say they still must fight misperceptions that local beaches were affected.

An advertising promotion featuring local beaches shot last week will air this summer in regional Florida markets starting Memorial Day weekend. It's part of a $1 million campaign dubbed "100 Days of Summer" that also will air nationally.

People still don't realize a year after the disaster that no oil showed up here, tourism officials told the County Commission and Tourist Development Council in a joint meeting Tuesday.

For example, callers question if the shade of gulf water is due to the tinge of oil, said D.T. Minich, tourism director.

County officials and hoteliers credit a TV, newspaper and online blitz last summer for helping ease backlash and fears. But many non-Floridians who would have come to Pinellas traveled instead to the South Carolina coast, Minich said

While out-of-state visitors tumbled, in-state visitors rose 33 percent, helping to offset lost visitors, according to research for the county's convention and visitors bureau, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

Besides its usual $1 million effort, the county used $1.15 million in BP aid for a bigger advertising run last year.

"We're going to get some residual benefit to that as well. It went very successfully," said Phil Henderson, a tourism board member with Starlite Cruises.

Tourism revenue has improved over 2010 levels, but still lags behind the robust years of 2007 and 2008, according to receipts from Pinellas tourist tax.

For instance, the Tradewinds resorts on St. Pete Beach won't reach 2008 levels for several more years, said president Tim Bogott, a tourist council member.

Pinellas requested $5 million more in aid, but so far has no sign from Gov. Rick Scott or BP that it will receive more help.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/DeCampTimes

$1 million ad campaign will fight belief that oil spill affected Pinellas beaches 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 11:06pm]
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