LEE COUNTY, Fla-- A CALL FOR ACTION investigation uncovers not a single penny of the 25 million dollars BP gave Florida to advertise its beaches are clear is directly coming to Southwest Florida.
An ad campaign is running in 100 television markets--but it specifically mentions northwest Florida, not southwest Florida.
That's made it difficult for tourists to know what to expect when they arrive in southwest Florida.
Matt Hoppe and his family planned their trip months ago.
"We watched it like 50 some days ago when started happening," said Hoppe, "We were like...well, should we cancel it or not? We decided we'll shoot for it."
Pat O'Rourke, from Chicago, told WINK NEWS, "It should all be advertised where everything is clear."
That's exactly what ads on radio and television are supposed to do. Except the ads running right now don't mention southwest Florida.
CALL FOR ACTION wanted to know why the ads are concentrating on northwest Florida when southwest Florida business owners need help letting tourists know our beaches are clear.
The ad campaign is being coordinated by VISIT FLORIDA. A spokeswoman told WINK NEWS the $25 million BP handed Florida is being distributed in phases.
The first phase gave $7.15 to VISIT FLORIDA, and $4.4 to be divided between 8 individual counties in Northwest Florida.
Not a penny came directly to southwest Florida counties.
VISIT FLORIDA also told us Governor Crist's office required the ads concentrate on northwest Florida.
75 percent of VISIT FLORIDA's money paid for an ad airing in 100 US television markets shot entirely in northwest Florida.
The remaining 25 percent paid for a second ad advertising the whole state. Neither ad specifically mentions southwest Florida.
Tourists we spoke with believe beach-specific ads would help others make travel decisions.
"They need to get down there see how pretty it is," said Anna O'Rourke, "It's a great beach. All these beaches are."
We called the Governor's office to ask why funds aren't being spent on advertising southwest Florida beaches. Here's the response we received:
Thank you for clarifying your interest specifically in the $25 million the state received for tourism/marketing.
The primary focus once we received the money from BP was on the counties who were immediately impacted by the spill. We asked each of the Northwest Florida Tourist Development Councils to submit a marketing/media plan because at the time, oil had not surfaced on a Florida beach, yet many visitors were canceling reservations. Media campaigns were developed to encourage visitors to come to Northwest Florida, to visit the beaches, and to not cancel their vacation plans.
We funded 50% of the local plans - $4.4 million and provided $7.1 million to Visit Florida for a national, statewide campaign not solely focused on Northwest Florida.
The remaining committed funds will be distributed over the next several weeks to Visit Florida and the 8 panhandle counties to complete their initial media campaigns as well as to provide an opportunity for local TDCs to modify existing messages based on the track of the Deep Horizon Oil spill.
Sterling Ivey, Spokesman Governor Crist
We sent a follow-up email asking if the Governor realized reservations were being canceled in southwest Florida, too.
We received this response from Sterling Ivey with the Governor's office:
There isn't any additional money for advertising available. This is an ever changing situation and as we are beginning to see the impact statewide there may be additional funds requested of BP or other options pursued to help additional Gulf Coast counties.