Take a $250 shopping spree courtesy of BPby Dara Kam | August 2nd, 2010
Tourists who book three nights or more in a Walton County beach hotel between now and Sept. 30 will get a $250 voucher for Southwest Airlines or $250 gift card for the Silver Sands outlet mall in Sandestin, all on BP’s dime.
The promotion will be paid out of the $7 million BP gave Panhandle tourism boards to help lure visitors back to the region where tourism has taken a nosedive in the aftermath of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
Tar blotches and oil stains impacted all but 1.5 miles of the 26-mile stretch of sugar white beaches in Walton Count and resulted in a 7 percent drop in bed tax collections in June and a 3 percent reduction in May, according to Dawn Moliterno, head of the region’s tourism development council, Beaches of South Walton.
The $7 million will be divided between the seven Florida tourism councils most directly impacted by the oil spill. Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will receive $700,000; the seven councils will split 14 percent of the $7 million and the rest will be distributed based on the amount of bed tax each of the councils collects. The tourism officials have to spend the money by Sept. 30, when all promotional programs must end, Moliterno said.
Moliterno’s council paid the most of the bunch last year – nearly $1.7 million and so will get a bigger slice of the BP marketing money.
The TDCs are excited about the new fund because they have control over how the money will be spent, unlike the $25 million for marketing BP gave the state earlier in the summer.
Moliterno thinks the vouchers will be great for the local economy because visitors will spread the cash around to businesses other than hotels.
“We know if we can get people here we know we can get them to support the community,” Moliterno said.
She gave BP credit for “putting the money into motion.”