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In an Effort to Aid Tourism Promotion During Oil Spill Crisis BP Gifts
Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida's Tourism Panels
$70 million Collectively

By Nicole Dow and Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 18, 2010--BILOXI -- Last Thursday the Harrison County Tourism Commission asked BP for funds to counter the media coverage of the oil spill and on Monday BP answered by giving a $15 million grant to Mississippi to promote tourism.

Alabama and Louisiana also will get $15 million and Florida, which has a much longer shoreline that could be impacted, will get $25 million.

"I'm very ecstatic about it," said Kenneth Montana, chairman of the commission. "It is a fantastic, quick response from BP for our request."

The commission asked for $7.5 million a month to pay for an advertising campaign that would target the fly-in market and would include spots on the morning television shows.

The Big Three advertising agency was hired Thursday to quickly come up with an advertising campaign. Montana said the commission should get a look at the broadcast and print advertisements at today's meeting at 1:30 p.m. in the boardroom on the second floor of the Coast Convention Center.

After nationwide news coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf, he said the Coast has seen a drop in tourism. Cancellations for hotels and motels are at 50 percent, Montana said, and almost all phone calls requesting reservations and information have come to a halt.

"The perception across the country is that we're closed," he said.

Montana said the commission will start the advertising program immediately using emergency funds. Once the commission learns what portion of Mississippi's $15 million Harrison County will receive, he said the campaign will be expanded, with spots on Fox, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN and other national networks.

Montana said he hopes the advertising campaign will stop most of the cancellations in South Mississippi.

"We are going to lose some, there's no question about it," he said.

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To see more of The Sun Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sunherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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