BP will give the Northwest Florida Tourism Council (NWFTC) $30 million to help the state's tourism industry recover from the effects of last April’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement: “I’m pleased that BP is doing the right thing, and I’m optimistic that with the assistance of this grant the world will know that Florida’s beaches are as beautiful as ever and open for business. However, this is just one small step on the road to recovery, and I’m going to continue to hold BP accountable to Floridians and the businesses that lost millions of dollars because of the oil spill.”
Last spring and summer the tourism industry in the Florida Panhandle was hit hard economically. Many hesitated to visit during the disaster. Hotels, restaurants, charter boats, and attractions suffered. NOAA closed federal waters off the Panhandle to recreational and commercial fishing until late October. Tar balls and oil sheens were seen, but the beaches were not hurt as badly as those in Louisiana, closer to the damaged Deepwater Horizon oil platform.
Dolphin and sea turtle deaths have continued.
The NWFTC is a long established regional marketing coalition of seven tourism development councils (TDCs). The group mobilized during the oil spill to try to mitigate losses to tourism. It said in a statement that it wanted to correct misperceptions about the impact of the spill on the Florida Panhandle’s beaches. BP’s grant is for marketing and will go directly to the member TDCs over three years.
Dawn Moliterno, chairperson for the NWFTC, said in a news release: “This grant is over and above what is being allocated through the claims process. We believe this additional marketing push will be just what Northwest Florida needs to create that share of voice to showcase that our beaches are as beautiful as ever.”
The grant is timed just ahead of Florida’s peak tourist season. The Panhandle, on Florida’s northwest coast, has four seasons. It It is not tropical like Miami and the Keys, and attracts most visitors in spring and summer. “The Tourism Council has been in conversations with BP since fall of 2010,” stated Moliterno in the governor's press release. She said she was grateful for the governor’s help and grateful her group was getting the money before the 2011 season began.