Gulf Coast-Day One
After an 8-hour drive, I finally arrived at the Gulf Coast at 11:30 p.m. tonight in Spanish Fort. The drive was a little longer than I expected and of course traffic is never a walk in the park coming through Atlanta. What's worse, I hadn't seen rain in several weeks, and it rained horizontally for half the drive. This was the longest road trip I had taken in quite a while and reminded me of my love for travel and why I do what I do. Probably the best news of the day was when I got to my hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, and found out that the hotel was at max capacity. This was music to my ears, as I had talked to one of the Gulf Coast CVBs earlier in the day who I had said that tourism was down at least 50% this summer with the oil spill. Most of this can be observed by hotel bookings, where hotels are practically trying to just give hotel rooms away. As I assumed, the CVB is making a strong push to still woo visitors with many of the activities and attractions that are off the beaten path. Early observations indicate that this is the biggest problem is that the local tourism industry and businesses in general are barely making ends meet and need more support from tourists. The tourism industry is the largest industry in the Gulf and when it suffers, then everyone suffers.
Fishing is often the lifeblood of the Gulf Coast region, and it's taken the biggest hit with the oil spill. I tried talked to a fisher earlier today, but he didn't want to speak about the issue, although he sounded more optimistic then some of the things I've seen on the news. He was very helpful in referring me to a couple places that would have fishers that are interested in talking with the media.
Tomorrow I get an early start, filled with interviews with local residents. I'm heading to one of the local marinas and am trying to get on either one of the skimmer boats or wildlife rescue boats. I'll be posting Day Two's update late in the afternoon tomorrow. For live photos, videos and updates, you can follow me on Twitter with the hashtag #gulfa.