Meeks tells BP $25 million isn't nearly enough

05/20/10 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

While the image of oil covering Florida’s beaches may not be reality, it is already causing people to cancel their visits to Florida. To help combat this, BP pledged to give Florida $25 million to convince the rest of the world that its beaches are clean. Today Democratic US Representative and Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek sent a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward asking him to up that number four-fold.

Meek said that he expects an effective marketing campaign, which would blanket cities like Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis, would likely cost at least $96 million, but maybe more. He said that the oil giant is good for it.

In Florida, tourism is a $65 billion per year industry. Already, Meek said, the Panhandle has seen a 70% dropoff in reservations. The rest of the Gulf Coast hasn’t fared well either. It’s seen a 15% drop in reservations. Meek says the charter fishermen he’s spoken with are also beginning to feel the crunch.

On the question of what happens if oil does wash up in Florida, Meek said it’s not like the entire coast will see it.

Meek said BP needs to consider the timing of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Tampa Bay’s beaches are already seeing some cancellations because of spill. Robin Grabowski is President of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. She says area hotels have already gotten a few cancellations.

While the numbers may not be significant, she’s more worried about those who aren’t making reservations.

Grabowski said the Chamber is taking advantage of social media, but does not have the money to market Tampa Bay’s oil-free beaches in a way that would compensate for the money that may be lost due to inaccurate perceptions of the oil spill’s proximity to Tampa Bay.

She said she doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 1993 spill.

Grubowski said Representative Meek’s request for 75 million additional dollars is good news, but that she’s being realistic on the question of whether BP will actually agree to that number.

As of air time, there is no word on whether BP will fulfill Representative Meek’s request.

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