By now you've probably seen the ads: Come to Florida/Another Gulf Coast state, our beaches are still beautiful (despite the worst oil spill in U.S. history). It's a sign that the states are losing visitors, and tourism dollars. A new (.pdf) analysis by Oxford Economics projects the BP oil spill will impact Gulf Coast tourism for at least three years, and cost the region $22.7 billion. That's a lot of zeros, and based on history and current trends, researchers say. The study demonstrates that natural assets like blue water and sandy beaches are hard to replace. Does it make better sense to try to replace our fossil-fueled economy instead? Congress?
The Oxford Economics analysis, done for the U.S. Travel Association, says a $500 million marketing effort to attract visitors to the Gulf Coast could reduce the total economic impact by $7.5 billion. Not as many zeros. The $500 million would come from BP, with a marketing effort supervised by the federal government.
This may be a good investment if the money is spent on telling people the truth, rather than a Photoshopped version of the truth (speaking of BP). If efforts to (finally) halt the spill and clean up beaches are having an effect, let's highlight that. But let's not engage in false advertising.
"Travel is a perception business and the impact of disasters like the BP oil spill on the industry is actually predictable," says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
"We know from this research that the oil spill will have long-term effects on businesses and jobs in the Gulf Coast region unless we counteract the usual course of events with an unprecedented response."
The U.S. Travel Association says 400,000 travel industry jobs hang in the balance, and they've released a 10-point "Road to Recovery." The plan (.pdf) calls on feds to:
- Create a $500 million, BP-funded marketing program;
- Develop a "one-stop shop" online portal where consumers can obtain up-to-the-minute information about which areas are safe and open for travel and business;
- Provide tax deductions in a disaster-affected area to give travelers added incentive to travel to and do business in that region;
- Intervene to provide increased access to capital, low interest loans and tax incentives that allow businesses to remain open and retain employees.
Residents, travelers, what do you think? Is it time to urge people to return to the Gulf Coast states for tourism, or urge them to donate money and time toward a cleanup? U.S. President Barack Obama is urging people to vacation in the Gulf Coast. He's taking his family there in August.
Can we trust BP with the truth?
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