Alaska tourism officials plan to use $4 million from Exxon to launch a national advertising campaign aimed at convincing vacationers that only a small portion of the state has been fouled by the nation's worst oil spill.
State officials ended a three-day conference Sunday by vowing to get out the message that tourists can still find the unspoiled Alaska they want to see, despite the 10.9-million gallon spill.The Alaska Visitors Association wants to avoid the kind of panic that damaged European tourism when terrorist attacks frightened away untold thousands of travelers a few years ago.
To get out the word, they plan to use $4 million given by Exxon - the tourism group had asked Exxon for $14 million - to launch a four-week drive starting this week to convince Americans that Alaska remains a great vacation destination despite the spill.
Tourism is Alaska's third largest industry, after oil and fishing, and last year the 745,000 visitors left $500 million in Alaska at hundreds of businesses that generate 20,000 jobs, said State Director of Tourism Hugh Gellert.
Even more visitors were expected this year until the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground March 24, spilling millions of gallons of gooey oil into Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Alaska and onto the shores of southern Alaska.
Gellert said a survey of lodges around the state shows "heavy-duty losses in cancellations." He said telephones were quiet where they should be ringing off the hook at this time year for bookings.