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BP Oil Spill Hits Florida Beaches, Tourism Suffers

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA

Florida Tourism Suffers as Oil Hits the State’s BeachesFloridians are braced for environmental and economic damage as oil from the still-gushing Deepwater Horizon drilling site made its way through the Gulf of Mexico to Pensacola Beach this weekend.

The state can expect even more oil to flow into the Gulf Coast, after last week’s attempt by BP to stem the flow of oil met with only moderate success.

Last week, BP installed a cap over the leaking well, which officials estimated to be recovering 15,000 barrels of oil per day.

With an estimated 25,000 barrels of oil being leaked, the cap falls short of capturing all oil flow.

The cap is also seen as a temporary fix. A longer-term solution, drilling relief wells, is currently is underway. However, they are not expected to be operational for a few months.

BP (British Petroleum) LogoWith no end of the crisis in sight, the emergence of tar along the coast has deeply shaken the tourism-dependent coastal communities of Florida.

It has also forced the tourism industry to juggle two missions: working to protect the shoreline from oil, while at the same time assuring tourists that their beaches are safe.

The mission became harder this weekend as over 120 people set out on Saturday to clean up the tar balls and tar mats that have begun washing ashore on Pensacola Beach. Beaches are still being kept open despite the tar.

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The landfall of the oil spill could not have come at a worst time for the Florida, which had been hit hard by the recession. The impact from the oil spill could compound the state’s existing economic woes and lead to deeper and longer-lasting recession for the state.

Gulf of Mexico Oil RigUnlike other states that have been contaminated by oil, such as Alabama or Mississippi, Florida’s strong reliance on tourism makes it especially vulnerable to the fallout from the spill.

Tourism is the state’s number one industry with tourists spending about $60 billion last year and generating about 21 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue.

Tourism is equally important to the state’s employment figures with leisure and hospitality jobs accounting for about 900,000 of the state’s 7.3 million workers.

The oil spill has thwarted what could have been a recovery year for Florida tourism, which had been in a steady decline since 2008, when visitors to the state fell by more than 2.3 percent.

By Adriana Padilla for

Related Links: MSNBC, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times

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