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Tampa Bay Businesses Suffer from Oil Spill Overflow

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - At The Alden Beach Resort&Suites, the reservations desk receives constant calls of concern.

"Almost every call we receive here is asking for an update on the oil spill," said Tony Satterfield, vice president of operations.

Since the spill, The Alden has lost 88 room reservations to the tune of more than $9,000.

When people make their way to the Tampa Bay area, they see the beaches are beautiful and the water is crystal clear. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 was more than 300 miles away.

But the oil spill has hurt the economy. Now Tampa-area tourism officials are inviting the public to see the beautiful beaches for themselves via webcam.

"Nothing says we're open for business like a live webcam of Clearwater Beach with thousands of people in the water, or a live webcam of St. Pete Beach with the sunset glistening on the water," said David Downing of www.visitstpeteclearwater.com.

Downing says tourism marketers like himself are keeping track of those sporadic cancellations.

"We have to get a birdseye view of how this is impacting our business right now," Downing said.

As tourism industry marketers, Downing says they're devoted to drawing the line in the sand between perception and reality.

"As long as people are acting on perceptions, we have to act on their actions," he said.

Back at 5900 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach, that is what they're doing at The Alden where calls keeping coming in.

"What concerns me at this point are the people who are not picking up the phone and calling because they don't want to take the chance. There's no way to put a number on that," Satterfield said.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist created an economic recovery task force. Its job is to help Florida businesses recover from losses associated with the oil spill.

Meanwhile, tourism leaders call this year for the industry a perfect storm. First the cold spell lasted until mid-March. Then, the volcanic ash stopped international travel for weeks. Now, the fear of the oil spill reaching beaches is causing cancellations.

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