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Jul 16, 2010 6:54 PM by Melissa Canone

Increase In Tourism On Alabama Beaches

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) - It didn't even take a full day for
Alabama beaches to see an increase in tourism after BP PLC said it
capped the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rental lounge chairs were full outside of hotels and
condominiums on the Alabama coast on Friday and hundreds of people
swam and fished in Gulf waters that appeared emerald green and
virtually oil-free.
Calls started flooding into the reservations switchboard at
Kaiser Realty Inc. in Gulf Shores almost as soon as BP confirmed
that oil had stopped flowing into the Gulf, said marketing director
Emily Gonzales.
"We got an influx in calls after they made the announcement,"
she said. "Our calls today are double what there were yesterday.
Are they what we want them to be? No, but it is far better than it
was. As far as the national audience goes, perception is reality."
The crowd Friday was noticeably larger than the one for July 4,
which is traditionally one of the biggest days of the summer for
tourism but was unusually quiet this year. Tourism officials say
business has been off by about half since the spill started
smearing the Gulf Coast with tar balls and small amounts of crude
oil.
Business might be better for a day, but Orange Beach Mayor Tony
Kennon said the crisis isn't over.
"I'm happy the well is shut off, that there's a light at the
end of the tunnel," said Kennon. "The other side is they're not
paying claims and I'm watching people moving away, people losing
their jobs, everything they've got. How can I be that happy when
that's happening to my neighbor?"
Kennon's greatest fear is that BP will forget its public
promises and abandon the region once the oil is permanently capped
and the media turns it attention to the next big story.
"It's all about image to them; don't think it's anything else
but that. I don't believe for a minute they're going to take care
of us once the spotlight is gone," he said.
The company said it has paid $201 million in claims, but more
than 61,000 of the 114,000 claims submitted so far lacked
sufficient information for a payment.
Alabama beaches haven't had major oil slicks washing ashore for
days, and the number of cleanup workers on the beach appeared
smaller Friday. BP said it has switched to a new work schedule that
means not all 15,000 of its coastal cleanup workers are on duty at
the same time.
"At any given time a percentage of this pool will be working,
while a `ready reserve' is off-duty resting. But if the number of
crew required needs to be rapidly increased, that `ready reserve'
can be called upon and immediately activated," said Ray Melick, a
spokesman for the company.

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