As a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Florida’s $60 billion-a-year tourism industry has already begun to lose millions of dollars. However, the oil spill has no confirmed oil contamination in the state’s beaches, a top marketing official said on Tuesday.
“Even without touching the ground, it’s causing significant economic hardship in the state already,” marketing officer of the state tourism board VISIT FLORIDA, Will Seccombe, said.
As they face a potentially disastrous environmental and economic hit from the spill, local tourism authorities are praying for a “100 percent transparent” information compaign that will keep visitors coming to the famous Sunshine State.
However, with the finding of tar balls on Monday on the beaches of Key West, people are worried about the possibility of currents bringing the oil to Florida’s shores.
Scientist are testing the Key West tar blobs to see if they come from the same broken undersea well owned by BP Plc which has already spit oil onto outlying islands and marshes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
On Tuesday the Coast Guard inspected reports of more tar balls on beaches in the Florida Keys. Florida will be harmed the most in this situation if the oil does in fact reach its shores.
Tourism is its economic lifeline and its largest industry creating $60 billion in spending from over 80 million visitors a year.
“Just the threat of something bad puts a ding into that, let alone an environmental disaster like the spill,” Seccombe said. Seccombe stated that to date there had been “absolutely zero environmental impact” but the oil spill had already affected the economy.
Seccombe said he hasn’t seen an overload of cancelations, however, he noticed tourists hesitating about taking the trip because of the disturbing news about the spill.
“The phones aren’t ringing as we would expect them to on any given day,” Seccombe said. Florida wants to get the message out that if oil did affect its shore, there would still be close to 1,200 miles of coast that would remain clean and could be visited without worry.
“The only way we’ll be able to counter the negative imagery and the negative news is by being 100 percent transparent and showing…what is still beautiful and available and open for business,” Seccombe stated.