Representative Kendrick Meek demanded $75 million more in aid from BP to revive Florida tourism, the state's number one industry, in a letter sent today to BP CEO Tony Hayworth.
The letter comes just days after BP's promise to the state that it would spend $25 million on a marketing campaign aimed at attracting visitors back to Florida. Ad buyers who were asked to approximate the cost of the marketing campaign described by VISIT FLORIDA, the state's tourism office, estimated that it would cost a minimum of $100 million for just 12 weeks of advertising in the top cities where Florida tourists travel from. These cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, St. Louis, Washington, DC and Toronto. The campaign would include television, radio, print, online, outdoor and promotional advertising.
Kendrick Meek has consistently opposed drilling off Florida's beaches.
The letter reads below:
Dear Mr. Hayward,
While I applaud your company's promise to make $25 million available to promote Florida tourism, it simply is not enough. I am writing to request that you pledge an additional $75 million - the amount of money required by conservative estimates to run an adequate domestic and international marketing campaign. This type of ad campaign will cost at least $8 million a week. Over 12 weeks, it will cost the state at least $100 million.
Florida earns over $65 billion per year from its tourism economy. It is the #1 industry in Florida employing over 1 million people. Recreational fishing alone accounts for $5 billion and 50,000 jobs. A $25 million ad campaign is just a drop in the bucket of what is truly needed and it will not turn the tide on the pervasive perception that Florida's beaches and water have been oiled.
In a normal year, the state of Florida's annual tourism marketing budget is $100 million. In the wake of the oil spill, we need to double-down on these efforts in order to bring tourists back to our beaches. Many of the small counties on Florida's coast have been effected. Charter boat operators, fisherman, market workers, and small hotel owners are experiencing huge drops in the numbers of tourists due to the perception that Florida's beaches are damaged and that the state is now closed for tourism. Generations of Floridians who have been living and working in the area are now having their livelihood severely threatened. Moreover, this is going to be a long-term problem.
A national and international campaign is going to be pivotal to rebuilding the economy that once was. Over 80 million people visit Florida every year, but tourists from around the world are not going to come if they believe their vacation might be ruined by your oil washing up on our beaches. I urge you to pledge additional funding and take more responsibility for the decline in Florida's tourism since the spill.