|May 6, 2010|
|Oil, Immigration Complicate Tourism PR|
|By Greg Hazley|
|As the PR toll against BP and the oil industry mounts with each gallon of oil that pours out of the Gulf floor, tourism agencies are scrambling to contain the damage in a different vein.|
Further west, Arizona officials are grappling with a potential travel crisis of a different making as consumers threaten to boycott the state in the wake of its law enforcement crackdown on illegal immigration.
In a fragile economy, the timing couldn't be worse for the travel sector.
With the summer vacation season fast approaching, the $100 billion Gulf Coast tourism industry faces the possibility of canceled trips, empty hotels and restaurants, recreational fishing vessels stuck at the docks, and, worst of all, beaches filled with clean-up crews or oil slicks.
"This has the potential to be as big an economic disaster as an environmental one," Peter Yesawich, president of Florida PR and ad agency YPartnership, told USA Today.
The accident was ill-timed, as well, as the region hoped to book some additional beach-going travelers looking to avoid the dicey situation in Mexico.
D. T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, told Travel Agent Central that "travelers' perceptions" could be the biggest obstacle to overcome amid the crisis.
“I am most concerned [that] if and when [the oil] hits any portion of the Florida Coast, we have had similar perception problems in the past when a storm hit one area of the state and customers thought the whole state was affected. People need to realize this is a huge state with more than 2,200 miles of coastline.”
Meanwhile, Arizona has suffered threats and cancelations from business groups and travelers irate over the state's passage of a tough immigration law.
We asked the Arizona Tourism Office for a comment but its communications director said the entity is not granting interviews at this time. We were pointed to the Arizona Tourism Alliance, which hasn't gotten back to us.
Debbie Johnson, president of the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association president, told AzCentral.com on May 3 that at least eight business meetings had been canceled, including an immigration lawyers group.
San Francisco and St. Paul have banned public employees from traveling to Arizona on business, according to the N.Y. Daily News, while Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland are considering similar actions.
As Johnson put it, "We really don't need another hit."
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