Reporter's Notebook From the Gulf - Tourism Impact
By Jim Shepherd, The Outdoor Wire
EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK: For the next few days, Jim Shepherd will be reporting from the Gulf Coast. Today, the first of his Reporter's Notebooks from there.
It's yet another of those tourism days with sugary-white beaches, azure waves and cobalt skies with impossibly white beach clouds. One of those days you long for after your vacation's over and you're back in the office staring at the grey skies of autumn.
The Deepwater Horizon couldn't be further from the imagination, until you take a look at the fact a normally packed beach has plenty of room for families to spread out and play. Cars that normally line the sides of 30-A around the public beach access points are all in the parking lots. Not only are there spaces available, there isn't the normal early summer mix of license plates from across America.
A small deposit of the "sheen" that the Deepwater Horizon continues to spread across the Gulf's topwater.
A small deposit of the "sheen" that the Deepwater Horizon continues to spread across the Gulf's topwater. "Space available" might be the epitaph for much of the Gulf's business community should the tourists continue to stay away in what are appear to be steadily increasing numbers.
Constant negative reporting on the crisis, despite the fact the vast majority of the Gulf's beaches remain clean and safe, has already taken a huge toll on the local economy.
It has also taken a toll on the morale of the residents who have one on the Gulf watching for oil and the other turned inland, looking for the normal glut of tourists that has yet to materialize.
Yesterday, I asked a real estate agent for a list of bank owned properties in his area. Not long ago, that would have produced a laugh. This time it produced multiple pages of single-family homes along the beach road. And that was a list of homes in the $400,000-600,000 price range. That would have been considered a very moderate price not long ago. "It's tough on everyone in real estate right now," he told me, "especially in the prices we considered recession-proof." A down economy, it seems, hasn't done nearly as much damage as the paucity of tourists.
Along a normally congested 30-A the beach road, this is one of the many signs of the uncertainty of life along this part of the Gulf of Mexico.
Along a normally congested 30-A the beach road, this is one of the many signs of the uncertainty of life along this part of the Gulf of Mexico. The story's one that I've heard repeated in the brief time since arriving here. While talking with lifeguards yesterday, one said there might be one upside- if you had a job. "I might," he said, "finally- be able to afford a house near the beach."
"If, he added, ruefully, "there are people on the beach for me to protect."
The reality of the Deepwater Horizon is hard to absorb from afar. It's one thing to speculate at the theoretical damage millions of gallons of oil might do to the ecosystem. But it's only theory until you see the faces of residents of a place that used to bill itself "the luckiest fishing village in the world."
Today, everyone is wondering if their luck has run out.
Continue to monitor the Gulf Oil Spill here on OutdoorChannel.com