Make us your home page
Instagram

Crist wants $35 million from BP for Florida tourism campaign

Gov. Charlie Crist says the state needs to spend nearly $35 million on an emergency advertising blitz to calm tourists worried that Florida beaches might become fouled by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

And he's got an idea who should pay the bill: petroleum giant BP.

Not a drop of oil from the spill has touched Florida yet. But hotels from the Panhandle to the Tampa Bay area say bookings are down and jittery customers are canceling reservations.

After hearing Wednesday that Visit Florida, the state's quasi-public tourism agency, could tap only $2.5 million, Crist asked BP to bankroll a $34.75 million campaign.

"Because of the constant images of millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, potential visitors are receiving negative and false information," the governor wrote to Lamar McKay, president of BP America. "We need your urgent assistance to correct the record. This action is critical to our economic survival."

A BP spokesman said the company was reviewing Crist's letter and planned to meet with the governor and Visit Florida officials. "We absolutely will respond in a very specific way," said spokesman Ray Dempsey. "BP is committed to support tourism in Florida."

BP pledged last week to give Florida $25 million to help cover the state's initial costs for responding to the spill. The money could be used for tourism advertising, said Dempsey, but that wouldn't preclude the company from giving additional help.

Tourism ranks among the state's top industries, accounting for $57 billion in spending annually. More than 900,000 Floridans work in lodging, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.

The recession caused a historic decline in travel last year. Industry officials saw small signs of recovery in March and were hoping for a strong summer.

The spill could be as damaging as the multiple hurricanes of 2004, said Keith Overton, chief operating officer of the TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach, at a hearing of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works on Tuesday.

"Even a further 10 percent reduction in Florida tourism dollars could force many of our tourism-based businesses … out of business," he said.

Overton told the committee that Florida needs to spend at least $100 million in advertising and public relations to counter tourists' concerns. ''We've got to get marketing dollars out there to say that Florida's in great shape," he said in an interview Wednesday

Crist dropped in on Visit Florida's governing board in Tallahassee early Wednesday and got an earful about the crisis.

Carol Dover of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, a trade group, said Panhandle area hotels were frantic that their phones weren't ringing with tourists booking summer vacations.

"We can't seem to get the message out fast enough," she prodded Crist. "If we don't do something immediately, they're just going to die." Crist acknowledged to reporters that the agency's $2.5 million wasn't enough. His office announced the request to BP soon afterward.

Most of the money would go to Visit Florida for a $24.75 million multimedia campaign largely targeting Florida's bread-and-butter summer business: tourists driving from large and midsize metro areas in the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest.

Ads will direct consumers to the agency's website. Viewers will see live video of tourists rollicking on unspoiled beaches and enjoying attractions.

Visit Florida's advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach of Miami, has been working on the campaign for two days. But it will likely be seven to 10 days before a spot could be on television, said spokeswoman Kathy Torian

The 19 Gulf Coast counties under an emergency order by Crist — including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando — would be eligible for a combined $10 million in local marketing grants under the plan.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Fast facts

Visit Florida's marketing plan

$7.5 million: Television ads in major metro

and feeder markets

$3.5 million: Radio ads in major metro and feeder markets

$3 million: National online ads

$4.3 million: U.S. newspaper ads

$2.2 million: National magazine ads

$2 million: Newspaper ads in U.K., Germany

$10 million: Grants to affected counties

Crist wants $35 million from BP for Florida tourism campaign 05/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

    Airlines

    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    State data shows FHP troopers are not writing violations for speeding or other infractions like they did back in 2011, even though there's 1 million more licensed drivers in Florida.
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)