Published: Oct 10, 2010 8:25 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 10, 2010 5:25 PM EDT

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Three Florida Panhandle counties say the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a devastating effect on local tourism.

Compared with August 2009, tax revenue from short-term rentals declined 27 percent in Walton County in August. Santa Rosa County reported a 22 percent drop. Okaloosa County had a drop of 35 percent.
Tourism officials say the losses were offset somewhat by tourism promotions funded by a $7 million grant BP gave to seven coastal counties in northwest Florida.

Kate Wilkes, executive director of Santa Rosa Countys Tourist Development Council, says news coverage of the spill prompted many tourists to cancel their reservations.

Panhandle tourism officials have applied for more grant money from BP for promotions to lure back spring and summer tourists next year.