July 22, 2010 / 8:42 PM / 10 years ago

Gulf tourism may lose $22.7 billion to oil spill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lucrative tourism industry in the Gulf of Mexico could suffer for up to three years with $22.7 billion in lost revenue because of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, a travel group said on Thursday.

The U.S. Travel Association released an Oxford Economics study that projected the impact of the BP oil spill on travel to the five Gulf Coast states — Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

“Tourism is integral to the economies of the Gulf coast. A lot is at stake here,” said Adam Sacks, managing director of Oxford Economics USA.

Visitors to the region spent more than $34 billion in 2008, sustaining 400,000 jobs, he said.

The spill, triggered by an April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, unleashed an environmental disaster in the Gulf, devastating the region’s tourism and fishing industries.

Fear of oil washing ashore and ruining picturesque beaches and vacation pastimes has sparked a double-digit drop in plans for travel to the region, Sacks said. This is true even in parts of Florida where oil has not yet washed ashore.

The Travel Association proposed a 10-point “Roadmap to Recovery” plan for the government to help communities hit by the oil spill by informing the public and adding incentives to travel to the affected areas.

“We know from this research that the oil spill will have long-term effects on businesses and jobs in the Gulf Coast region unless we counteract the usual course of events with an unprecedented response,” said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, which represents all components of the $704 billion travel industry.

The plan includes the creation of a $500 million marketing program, to be funded by BP, to share accurate information on the oil spill and attract visitors.

It also proposes setting up an online system where travelers could get current information about which areas are open for travel and business.

Editing by Todd Eastham

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