As thick, black oil begins to wash beaches in Alabama on Saturday, tourists seem to have found elsewhere to go. Baldwin County on Alabama’s coast annually attracts about 4.6 million visitors, who spend about $2.3 billion, according to an estimate by the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Orange Beach and neighboring Gulf Shores, which boast of some of the whitest beaches in the world, account for most of this income. On Saturday, a long stretch of beach on Gulf Shores was covered with thick brown oil, with clean-up crews piling the puddle and tar balls in garbage bags.
As the economy recovers from recession, local businesses were all set for a record season. Revenue from tourism was good till May, when the slick from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was yet to reach the coast.
However, reservations at 16,000 vacation rental units on Alabama’s cost have declined sharply in June. The reservations have gone down by 30 to 70 percent, Robert Craft, the mayor of Gulf Shores informed. Things can take a worse turn in July, as waves are likely to bring more oil ashore.
It is not uncommon these days to come across advisories at beaches warning tourists to stay away from water due to the spill. Authorities have also imposed a fishing ban on the coastline. Battle against oil is becoming increasingly challenging with more oil hitting the coast threatening to shatter the tourism dependant economy of beach cities along Alabama coast.