FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. - We are just days away from the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill. While tar balls never washed up on Southwest Florida's shores, hotels and other businesses still felt the effects.
April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig exploded, killing 11 workers and gushing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. NOAA reported the probability of oil hitting Fort Myers Beach was less than 1%. But many unfamiliar with Glorida's geography changed their plans.
"There were cancellations, some called about the oil spill, others simply turned around and went elsewhere," President of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce John Albion said.
Fear and uncertainty cost Fort Myers Beach hotels and restaurants big money, even after the leak was capped. "We were open, we were ready, our beaches were clear, but there just wasn't people," Dimitri Osneskes of Plaka Restaurant said. "Preceding months, we were probably down about 20-30%."
Pink Shell Beach Resort and Spa saw a 40% drop in call volume. And those who did call, wanted to know how much oil was here. But what a difference a year makes.
"This year is really busy for us we're well ahead of pace, doing better than forecast," Pink Shell Director of Sales and Marketing Ellis Etter said. "Compared to last year at this time, we're probably about 40% more than we did last year."
Red Coconut RV Park attributes a great season to the Lee Visitor and Convention Bureau ad campaign. "It really helped because it showed the people up north that our beaches were still clear and our area was still pristine sand and our area wasn't hit," Amy Mellott of Red Coconut said.
And a snowy winter in the northern part of the country brought ultimate recovery. "As mother nature protected us from the oil spill, mother nature also protected out economy with those arctic blasts pushing people back to Southwest Florida," Albion said.
Gov. Rick Scott announced this week BP is giving Northwest Florida a $30 million dollar grant to alleviate the spill's negative impact on tourism.