Too soon to decide tourism's future after oil spill

By Emily Luxen

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  The Gulf oil spill could have a huge impact on Alabama's $2 billion tourism industry. Right now, officials on the coast say they are waiting and watching the situation, but it is too early to tell how they will be impacted.
"We've done preparation, but at this point, we are waiting for mother nature to see what she does," said Mike Foster at the Gulf Shores Orange Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We don't know if we will get oil.  If we do get oil,  we don't know if it will be heavy or light, or how long it will take us to resolve the situation. It is kind of wait and see."

Foster said there have been a few vacation cancellations but nothing out of the ordinary. He said the Gulf Coast has a "disaster plan" in place. That is normally used for hurricanes, but it could apply in this situation as well.  

UAB economist, Dr. Bob Robicheax, said the oil spill could impact the entire state's economy. "At the very least, 4.4 million Alabamians will feel price of seafood is going up greatly this summer," said Dr. Robicheaux, "Restaurant operators will be affected and they will be forced to change their menus."

Dr. Robicheax said in addition to affecting the fishing and tourism industries, the oil spill could impact gas prices.  This is bad timing, as the state is still trying to get out of a recession.    

"This will cause energy prices to grow, and that is not something that will stimulate the recovery of the recession," said Dr. Robicheaux.

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