United effort sought to promote tourism, seafood after Gulf of Mexico oil spill


Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle said Friday he is trying to arrange a meeting with officials from three other Gulf Coast states that have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill so they can jointly make a pitch to the company for regional tourism and seafood promotion money.

Angelle said he is working with officials in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, states that have seen tourism and other industries disrupted by the disaster that spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for months.

He said officials from the four Gulf Coast states may have to meet by conference call next week because schedules of the four involved are hard to mesh. Angelle said he hopes to arrange it as early as Monday.

While each of the four states has its own request into BP for money to help stimulate tourism that was reduced during the summer by the oil spill, a “regional approach” is needed to underscore the seriousness of the damage, he said.

“A regional approach (to tourism) could get more return on investment,” Angelle said. Angelle’s office oversees the state’s chief tourism promotions agency, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

“The question we have to ask ourselves is: Can we get a high rate of return on investment promoting the Gulf Coast” as an entity, Angelle said. “When we take a look at the brand, it is a Gulf Coast brand” of food-and-vacation destinations that has been hurt.

Angelle did not say how much the four states should seek.

Louisiana is seeking $75 million from BP to help promote the state’s seafood and tourism industries. Angelle met with senior-level oil company executives last week, and the two sides were to meet this past week. However, scheduling problems delayed the follow-up meeting until Oct. 13.

Angelle said he was disappointed at the first meeting because BP officials were not prepared to discuss details despite being given studies that showed 29 percent of the tourists who had scheduled trips to Louisiana canceled or postponed them because of the oil spill.

The study also showed that almost half of the 1,000 tourists surveyed said they fear the seafood caught in Louisiana waters is not safe to eat, which Angelle called a misconception that has to be addressed.

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

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