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Fla. Hotel exec: Come on down! No oil in Tampa!

Posted on 05 August 2010

Don’t like media coverage of the oil spill (present company excepted, of course)? The Florida hotel industry stands shoulder to shoulder with you.

“The media gives the impression that Florida is covered in oil,” complained Keith Overton, senior vice president and chief operating officer for TradeWinds Island Resources, addressing the 12 July inaugural session of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Mr Overton said that, in fact, there is “no oil in Tampa Bay. Pensacola has had some oil, but there is little elsewhere.” He currently chairs the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Nevertheless, he said, Pinellas County alone stands to lose $70 million in tourist revenue. The statewide implications, at least along the Gulf Coast, are enormous. Tourists spend some $60 billion annually on Florida travel, he said, which results in $4 billion in tax revenue. Florida tourism employs about a million people.

But, he said, thanks to faulty media reports, tourists are staying away in droves. Call volume, he said, is down 25%.

He urged the panel to “hold the media accountable”, but this mandate is likely far beyond the powers even of this Presidentially endowed commission.

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