BP Gives Florida $25 Million For Tourism Ads
May 18, 2010
British Petroleum agreed Monday to give Florida another $25 million to pay for an advertising campaign promising that the state’s beaches remain open and fishing is going strong even as the company struggles to stanch a massive oil spill off Louisiana’s Gulf coast.
The cash comes on top of $25 million the company has already pledged to help offset the state’s costs in preparing coastal regions for a possible landfall of the oil, which continues to mass roughly 350 miles from the St. Petersburg shoreline.
The announcement came following a meeting at the Florida Capitol between BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward and Gov. Charlie Crist. Hayward also said $15 million each in tourism grants will be distributed to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“The big focus now is on how do we get the people of the Gulf Coast back to normal operations, the normal way of life,” said Hayward, who admitted to a British newspaper last week that he assumes his $6 million-a-year job is on the line over the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster.
Hayward echoed Crist in suggesting a theme for the state’s post-spill marketing campaign.
“Florida is open for business. The beaches are open and clean. The fish are biting, and everything is normal down here,” said Hayward.
Last week, Crist said the company should pay the state almost $25 million for a marketing campaign and another $10 million grant to help Gulf coast counties to respond to the sharp drop in hotel bookings and visitors since the April 20 rig accident, which killed 11 workers. Last week, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association president Carol Dover said summer bookings along the Panhandle coast had dropped from their usual 90 percent occupancy levels into the teens, despite industry efforts to calm fears by waiving deposit deadlines and making cancellations easier if oil actually came ashore.
Dover acknowledged Monday that the state had sought $35 million from BP for state and county marketing efforts. “But we’re thrilled to have a piece of it,” she said, adding that while the spill has hurt tourism statewide, “Nothing is as bad as the Panhandle.”
Dover said that with tourists staying away, “businesses have truly hit the 911 button.”
The grants BP announced Monday come on top of the roughly $525 million – or about $17.5 million a day – the company has been spending on efforts to cap the broken well a mile below the water’s surface and cleanup efforts along the coastlines in four states. During the first quarter of the year, London-based BP’s profits averaged $93 million a day, according to media reports.
Hayward, however, was buoyed by signs Monday that the company had begun to contain the leak, which has been pumping more than 200,000 gallons of oil daily into the Gulf. BP said it is drawing about one-quarter of the escaping oil into a tanker ship, using a mile-long tube as a funnel. It also is preparing to attempt to “kill” the blown-out well in coming days, using mud and debris as a cork.
“We have achieved some considerable success,” Hayward said. “We are very confident we have contained the spill in the vicinity of the leak.”
Later, joining the governor in meeting with officials at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Hayward said, “Over the last 48 hours, we’re beginning to meet with some significant success. I do feel that we have for the first time turned the corner in this challenge.”
Researchers, however, remain concerned that the oil congealing in the Gulf could reach a major ocean current that carries it through the Florida Keys and along the East Coast.
Kathy Torian, a Visit Florida spokeswoman, said the state had already planned a $2.5 million advertising buy to promote the state’s Gulf beaches chiefly to a “drive-time” market stretching through much of the Southeast. But she said the additional BP cash will allow the state to expand the campaign into major national metropolitan markets, with online, newspaper and television advertising, along with international markets primarily in Great Britain and Germany.
Pictured: BP CEO Tony Hayward and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist address reporters Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo by Christian Clements for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
By John Kennedy, The News Service Florida.