The beaches in South Mississippi remain open yet tourists are staying away from the charter boats, hotels and restaurants because of the negative national publicity since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
British Petroleum will spend $500,000 for an advertising campaign to help spread the word that the Gulf states are open for business, Mary Beth Wilkerson, director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism, said Tuesday.
She and officials from other state agencies met at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum with a representative of BP and about 150 people who work in the tourism industry on the Coast.
The advertising campaign needs to start immediately, Coast tourism officials told Bruce Johnson, director of governmental affairs for BP in Ohio.
“If it’s not now, there will be some properties that can not hang on,” said Linda Hornsby, director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association. Occupancy at beach front hotels was down 50 percent last weekend, she said.
More than $500,000 is needed for an effective advertising campaign, said Beverly Martin, a member of the Harrison County Tourism Commission. When asked how much it will take, she said, “We’ll give you a figure and a plan.”
The commission scheduled a special meeting for 1:30 p.m. today at the commission’s board room, on the second floor of the Coast Convention Center. Chairman Ken Montana suggested the BP marketing department could use its massive resources to help and others recommended the local Big Three advertising agency create a campaign.
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