First installment of BP money for Louisiana tourism to be divided among all 64 parishes


The initial $5 million installment of BP’s $30 million commitment to help rebuild Louisiana’s tourism industry will be split among all 64 parishes, with the largest share going to parishes hardest hit by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Thursday that parishes will have broad flexibility to design their own advertising campaigns with the money, but that the state tourism office that he heads will oversee the efforts to make sure the campaigns are consistent with the state’s new “Pick your Passion” marketing effort.

“We gave the parishes great discretion … with the provision that it had to be part of a consistent message,” Dardenne said.

Although BP is paying the money in six quarterly installments, the 52 parishes that were least affected by the spill are getting lump-sum payments this quarter ranging from $2,449 for tiny Tensas Parish to $235,150 for Lafayette Parish.

Areas of the state that were closer to the spill will have larger payments that will be spread out over the next 18 months.

The largest share – $6 million – is going to Orleans Parish, which is getting an initial $500,000 payment followed by five payments of $1.1 million. Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany are among six parishes getting $2,166,666 spread out over six payments.

The state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism will get $5 million, plus another $1.5 million that will be used to offset specific events such as fairs, festivals and athletic events.

Dardenne said the Louisiana tourism industry suffered $700 million in losses due to the spill, though some of that was offset by hotel rooms and restaurants that were filled by people responding to the disaster. He said leisure travel to Louisiana might not completely recover from the spill’s impact until early 2013.

The tourism office plans to use $1 million from its BP allotment toward a $3.2 million ad campaign that will launch later this month in hopes of luring visitors to the state during the busy summer travel season. Another $1.4 million will come from money that the Legislature had allocated to support the Sugar Bowl but which was recently returned to the state, with the rest coming from tax dollars that are dedicated to tourism.

Dardenne had hoped to spend $4.2 million on the campaign, but part of the money was held up in a dispute between Dardenne and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget office.

In addition to the tourism money, BP also has agreed to finance a separate $30 million campaign to market Louisiana’s seafood, which is being administered by the state’s Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, as well as an $18 million seafood-testing campaign being run by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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