Fla.: Hotel, restaurant income down 30% due to oil spill

The BP well may be capped, but the revenue losses are not.

Hotels and restaurants in Florida averaged a 30% drop in income due to the Gulf Coast oil spill, which flattened tourism last spring and summer, particularly in Northwest Florida, according to figures compiled by the state's Restaurant and Lodging Association.

"Losses are all across the board and vary depending upon location. Some properties say they are trending up in terms of revenue over last year, but last year was an economic meltdown where losses averaged 37%," said Carol Dover, president and CEO.

Regionwide losses from the oil spill could amount to $22.7 billion in lost tourism spending alone, according to an Oxford Economics USA study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association in late summer.

Travel and tourism generate up to $34 billion in direct spending and employ close to half a million people in coastal communities in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The biggest loss in travel spending would be felt in Florida, where visitors pump more than $22 billion a year into tourism, the state's top industry, according to the study.

Summer visits up statewide

The latest statistics compiled by Visit Florida are a mixed bag of good and bad news.

Domestic visitation fell 1.6% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, but overseas visitors increased 17.4%, the average daily room rate was up 1.2% and hotel occupancy rose 5.1%.

Florida welcomed close to 19 million visitors from July through September, a 0.6% uptick over 2009.

"Given what the tourism industry faced this summer, it's not surprising to see that the domestic numbers are down slightly," said Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Visit Florida.

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