Finally, a bit of good news for the businesses in the Gulf Coast region: the snowbirds are flocking back to the beaches of Alabama and the Florida panhandle, and in even bigger numbers than last winter.
Tourism officials in this area which was dealt a devastating blow by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill are heartened by the return of these mostly older visitors, affectionately known as Snowbirds, who leave behind colder climates to seek out the sunny beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
According to a report by Marty Roney for USA Today, winter bookings are back to normal or better, which is welcome news after the summer’s sharp decline in tourism caused by the spill.
Karen Harrell, who publishes Snowbirds Gulf Coast, said “the season appears to be on track to equal or even be better than last year.” She said some of these snowbirds are part-time residents who flee the cold weather of the northern states and Canada to spend as much as six months on the Gulf Coast.
Tourism is expected to be up this winter in Panama City Beach, says Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, quoted in Roney’s story. “I do not believe that the BP oil spill will have a negative effect on our winter visitation," he says. “The tar balls that washed onshore after the spill have been cleaned up and people are returning to the beach.”
Ideally, when the winter tourists go back to their northern homes they’ll pass along the message that the Gulf beaches are clean and the seafood is as safe and delicious as ever.
The Food Channel is bringing you recaps of some of the best stories from around the Web that will help us all learn more about the true situation in the Gulf. Stay with us as the story unfolds and let’s see what the future of food may look like in the wake of crisis.