Kenneth R. Feinberg, administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, should take responsibility for determining which organizations receive the BP promotion money now being urged by the U.S. Travel Association. The association has proposed that federal officials secure $500 million from BP for a public information fund. U.S Travel believes that prompt use of the fund can prevent $7.5 billion in economic damages due to the BP oil spill crisis.
"An analysis by Oxford Economics of 25 recent natural and manmade disasters projects the effects of the BP oil spill on travel to the Gulf Coast is likely to last up to three years and cost the region $22.7 billion," said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's president and CEO. "An aggressive and comprehensive $500 million effort to attract visitors to the Gulf Coast could reduce the total economic impact to the region by $7.5 billion, according to independent research."
Dow, who testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, said the $500 million for public education is needed immediately, whether the money comes from the escrow account established by BP or through a new allocation.
“This is a situation where BP can pay now or pay more later,” Dow added. “There are 400,000 travel and tourism jobs along the Gulf Coast. One of the most cost-effective ways to save tens of thousands of jobs and reduce lost tax revenue is to immediately fund strategic marketing and public information campaigns to counter misperceptions and encourage travel to the region.”
Dow said Feinberg could serve as an objective arbiter of how the funds are spent, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of the promotion fund and avoiding potential politicization of the how the money is doled out from state to state and community to community.
Dow also discussed U.S. Travel's "Roadmap to Recovery," a 10-point plan for government to help communities in crisis by implementing specific action steps that inform public perceptions, incentivize travel to an affected area and make impacted businesses whole.