Tourism chiefs in the American states bordering on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have requested $500 million to combat negative public perceptions of the region.
Industry leaders from the states – including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi - told the White House money would be used for marketing campaigns to bolster the beleaguered image of the region.
As many as one million jobs depend on tourism in the region, according to non-profit SouthCoast USA, with many at risk over the next 18 months following the spill.
Approximately three quarters of these jobs are located in Florida, where tourism demand has fall 20 per cent since the spill, according to VisitFlorida.
However, targeted campaigns – potentially utilising funds from BP – could mitigate the impact of the environmental disaster, argue tourism leaders.
“The impact you could have would be such that you would save the jobs and lives of tens of thousands of people who are absolutely, unequivocally going to lose them over the next year,” said Stephen Perry, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“This is something that is coming as surely as the oil is flowing east.”
BP has already offered to provide $70 million for marketing to four Gulf States; with $25 million going to Florida and $15 million each for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The states – in conjunction with the US Travel Association – are preparing specific legislative requests for assistance to be presented to Congress in the next month.
“The Obama administration has been a great ally to the industry in this effort,” added Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of the US Travel Association.
“From walking the beaches of the Gulf coast and eating the food, he’s sending the message that the area’s open for business.”
The BP owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, with the loss of 11 lives.
Since the explosion approximately 60,000 barrels of oil per day have been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, posing a huge economic risk and threatening environmental catastrophe.