[UPDATE] 4-19 3pm -
Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President/CEO Carol Dover Statement on One Year Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion and Florida's Hospitality Industry
"Just one short year ago, Florida's hospitality industry received the devastating news that 11 lives were lost in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana. We remember those workers today and their families.
"The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) also remembers thousands of our hoteliers and restaurateurs who have been dramatically impacted by both the perceived and direct oil on Florida's shores. While the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) has paid emergency funds and final payments to many of those in the hospitality industry, there remains thousands who have yet to realize any compensation for the decline in state, national and international visitors to their establishments.
"When our members began to experience immediate and unprecedented cancellations heading into their peak season - Memorial Day - our advertising campaign proved critical to our economic survival. Many hoteliers in Northwest Florida, who are normally at 90 percent occupancy rates heading into the Memorial Day weekend, were reporting a drop in bookings by 30 percent with some experiencing occupancy rates in the teens. Northwest Florida's peak season is Memorial Day through Labor Day realizing 70 percent of their income during the 90-day period.
"Prior to the state of emergency declaration for several coastal counties in May 2010, FRLA immediately began working tirelessly and around the clock to get the message out that Panhandle beaches were oil free. We did not wait for marketing dollars to be allocated through British Petroleum during the first 30 to 60 days of the crisis. We held press conferences, tourism industry briefings, developed and aired radio ads and newspaper ads, and gave countless media interviews around the globe to let people know that our beaches are beautiful and Florida is open for business.
"Throughout the year, FRLA held statewide town hall meetings, briefings, forums, and webinars, including seminars with our legal consortium in walking through the claims process for local hoteliers and restaurateurs. By utilizing an expert legal team, we provided an avenue for members, and non-members, to ensure filed claims were specifically tailored to the industry and to recover every dollar of lost revenue they are entitled to as a result of this catastrophe.
"FRLA also received the transfer of $700,000 in October from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's trust fund to speed the economic recovery for Florida's hospitality industry. The association created the "Back to the Beach - Fall Back into Summer" marketing campaign to participate, organize, and promote several outdoor concerts, fishing tournaments, and seafood and arts festivals, geared toward bringing tourists to Northwest Florida during its off-peak season. Events included a Clint Black concert, The Northwest Florida Songwriter's Series, Taste of The Beach, The Great Visit Florida Beach Walk, and other events promoting Florida's unique culture and cuisine.
"The impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be felt for generations to come. These next few months heading into Northwest Florida's peak tourism season will be closely monitored to determine if tourists will come back to the Sunshine State in large or small numbers. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association remains cautiously optimistic that the marketing dollars and outreach executed this past year will have made a difference in bringing visitors back to Florida."
Just weeks before oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico Jimmy Mosconis expanded his business.
He built a new bait and tackle shop at his fishing lodge. Then business dropped more than 20 percent as news of the worst oil spill in US history began to dominate the airwaves.
“The oil spill just really threw a lot of people on their heels last year. A lot of people,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy filed a claim with BP last year. They’ve yet to pay.
Spring break provided a boost for businesses along Florida’s gulf coast… But things are a long way from normal. Some people are still afraid to eat seafood caught in these waters.
Not Brownie Parkman. The fishing guide caught two Monday. His business dropped off 40 percent after the spill. Things are still slow.
“Cancelations were on the books and they just decided not to take the risk of getting oiled on,” said Parkman.
The oil didn’t keep Irl Long away last year. He’s back again and ready to eat his catch.
“Been eating a bunch of them since the oil spill and I haven’t noticed any difference,” said Irl.
Lawsuits from the state and people who lost business in the spill are still a possibility… Whether or not things get that far will depend largely on how much BP is willing to pay. Tomorrow Governor Rick Scott will tour parts of the panhandle and talk to business owners still feeling the effects of the oil spill.