Florida in tourism crisis move as oil spill moves closer to coast

Florida has released emergency funding for tourism campaigns in the UK as oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill heads towards the 'sunshine state'.

Pollution: BP oil spill is moving towards Florida's coast
Pollution: BP oil spill is moving towards Florida's coast

Visit Florida is targeting potential holidaymakers from the UK with information about the latest developments on the BP oil spill. The state was planning to bring in agency support later in the year, but has brought forward the campaign because of the crisis.

The tourist board has re-appointed Hills Balfour to handle PR in the UK. It has contracted the consultancy in the past, but significantly cut back tourism promotion last year following budget restrictions during the recession (PRWeek, 5 June 2009).

The agency will be advising Visit Florida on crisis comms following the spill, which is affecting the state's western coast.

It will also provide press office functions, arrange press trips and look to increase the amount of positive coverage for Florida.

Hills Balfour MD Jonathan Sloan said: 'Essentially, we are monitoring the situation and preparing a crisis plan for every possible outcome. We are ensuring that media and potential visitors are both fully up to date with the situation, which beaches have been affected and the long-term impact for the state.'

Visit Florida president and CEO Chris Thompson added: 'The oil spill situation is of great concern to us and as well as looking forward to a solution to the problem, we are also advising visitors of any effect the oil spill has or will have on the state.'

Florida welcomes more than 80 million visitors a year, from 154 different countries.

Separately, Visit Jamaica has shelved a PR pitch, which it began earlier this year.

The tourism board has extended its contract with retained agency McCluskey International and is aiming to resurrect the search later this year.

Last month, violence erupted between security forces and supporters of an alleged drug lord in Kingston, Jamaica. The UK Foreign Office advised visitors to avoid certain areas because of 'substantial unrest including gunfire'.

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