Tourism department steps up ad campaigns

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - You may have seen some advertisements for Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Dauphin Island floating around the airwaves recently--urging tourists to keep going to the coast.

They're not popping up anymore now that oil is hitting the shore and officials are advising folks to stay out of the water.

"Out of an abundance of caution we're taking these actions to try to protect people's health," says Alabama State Health Officer, Dr. Don Williamson.

But that doesn't mean the state's efforts to get you to the gulf are stopping.

"There's a lot of things to do when you go to the gulf coast that don't involve going into the water," says Lee Sentell, Director of the Alabama Tourism Department.

He says despite the bad news of oil washing onto the shores, the beach is still a hot spot.

"Practically every hotel or condo has a nice swimming pool, there are nice restaurants, there's a lot of great seafood, there's great shopping."

New television ads coming out in a couple weeks will feature celebrities like Taylor Hicks and Jimmy Buffet's sister--who owns a restaurant on the gulf coast.

They'll encourage people to see what the area has to offer out of the water.  It's an effort to keep tourism dollars flowing in to Alabama.

"They're going to be very candid and acknowledging that we have some challenges right now," says Sentell.

BP gave the department $15 million dollars--some of which will go to pay for the new ads.  They also gave money to the other gulf coast states.

While he expects a 20% decrease of folks coming to the beach he hopes the advertising will help.

But tourists are on the fence especially since getting in the water is out of the question.

"If you can't play in the sand and the surf, stay at home and spend your money locally," says Kyle Glover.

"You don't want to drive three and a half hours if you can't really get on the beach," says Nicole Esco.

Sentell hopes the ads will serve a dual purpose. First, to simply get folks to the beach.  Secondly, encourage them to help support the restaurant and shopping industries hit hardest by the oil spill.

Sentell says the ads will cost roughly $200,000 dollars to produce.

They should be airing within the next two weeks.

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