Bad timing. A new international airport opens up in Panama City, Florida today — only 100 miles away from the notorious BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Instead of celebrating, the area’s visitor’s bureau is trying to convince tourists that the water is still clean.
“We’ve been getting calls ever since the oil spill occurred,” said Dan Rowe of the Panama City Visitors’ Bureau. “You know, wondering about their vacation plans.”
Tourism, Rowe said, is the largest industry in Panama City. The $318-million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is the first international airport to open in the country since 1997.
“It is really going to be an economic driver for all of northwest Florida’s economy for years to come,” he said.
The new airport is expected to generate approximately $80 million in new state revenues over the first 20 years of operation.
But the challenge, now, is to convince tourists that the water is clean.
“We’ll get through the oil spill,” Rowe said. “There’s no oil on Panama City Beach or any of the beaches in northwest Florida.”
Tarballs, (big globs of emulsified oil) have been seen washing up on the shores of Mississippi and Alabama, however.