Gulf Coast Experiences Record Tourism Rebound After BP Oil Spill

Erika Johnsen
Posted: Dec 28, 2011 3:35 PM

In the short term, a massive oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon meltdown of 2010 is a terrible thing. The spill caused temporary environmental degradation that polluted the seashores and killed some marine wildlife; it disrupted regional economies and diverted valuable resources from more meaningful enterprises; the local energy and tourism industries were hit especially hard and the far-reaching implications rippled throughout the already-struggling national economy. Overall, an undeniable mega-waste of time and money that should never have happened. But, in the long term... it wasn't the absolute end of the known universe. Indeed, the Gulf Coast has already bounced back:

Along the beaches of the Gulf Coast, 2011 ends with a surprise that no one expected this soon: a post-oil spill rebound in tourism, and record-setting at that.

The year of 2010, of course, goes down as the horrible, lost period thanks to BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in this nation’s history. This year wraps up with not only better tourism numbers than before the oil spill, but better than any year on record. Florida’s oil-impacted beaches in the Panhandle saw tourism shoot up 61 percent over 2010. Alabama rose 51 percent, while Mississippi gained 7 percent.

Louisiana doesn’t have exact numbers yet, but tourism officials in Baton Rouge say they are at numbers that the state did not expect to see until the end of 2012. And tourism promoters and business owners set all-time records --  not just over 2010’s horrible summer -- after they seriously wondered last year whether all they had ever invested  in would be lost and shut down. ...

Martin’s Pensacola Beach restaurant was appropriately named last year. After the oil spill, the staff at Flounder’s had to work hard to convince tourists that the Gulf shrimp, yellowtail and mahi mahi was—as scientific tests repeatedly concluded—safe to eat. This year they have had no arguments -- just seafood-loving tourists spending dollars.

In other words, the oil spill was an utter disaster and we should work to prevent such a thing from happening again--but not necessarily at all costs. In the long term, a federal government that persistently denies its citizens and businesses the ability to transform abundant natural resources into wealth will result in much greater losses in potential economic growth than an already highly unlikely oil spill ever could.

Update: A reader pointed out to me that I originally forgot to include the link back to the FoxNews article I quote here -- thank you!