MONTGOMERY, AL - Governor Robert Bentley announced Tuesday a $16 million grant to fund the promotion of Gulf Coast tourism. The tourism grant comes as a result of negotiations between the Governor's Office and BP.
The money also comes in the wake of proration and likely deep budget cuts to the Ala. Tourism Dept. Director Lee Sentell recently admitted he's looking at a 50% budget cut for 2012.
"Alabama was hardest hit of all the Gulf Coast states by last year's BP Oil Spill, Governor Bentley said. "Alabama will use these funds to promote tourism so our Gulf Coast communities can begin to recoup the losses suffered since the disaster."
The $16 Million BP grant is specifically designated for promotion of tourism for Baldwin and Mobile counties, the two counties hit hardest by last year's loss of tourism following the oil spill. As part of the agreement, will administer the grant funds with the aid of the Alabama Coastal Development Commission (ACDC), an advisory commission formed for such purposes. The ACDC will develop, implement and plan the tourism promotion program and advise Sentell.
"We greatly appreciate Gov. Bentley's leadership in getting this BP grant program expedited," Sentell said. "The funds will allow us to encourage visitors to return to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Dauphin Island this summer. We already have a marketing plan prepared and this grant will get the Alabama Gulf Coast back on the radar screen of potential visitors. We have been using the last part of the BP grant from last May to market the beach destination for spring break which is now underway."
Gulf Coast Recovery Organization Executive Vice President Luke Keller said, "BP is very pleased to be working cooperatively with Governor Bentley and the state to provide this critical investment. To date, BP has voluntarily provided $38 million to support Alabama tourism. We commend Governor Bentley for his leadership."