Miami Tourism Chief on Oil Spill: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Even if experts warn that oil could already be off the coast of Miami and a University of Central Florida study estimates that the Gulf disaster could end up costing Florida $11 billion in lost tourism spending and 200,000 jobs, Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is not overly concerned that the bad publicity will hurt Miami's critical tourism industry. Or at least that's the drum he is banging for anybody to hear.

Talbert says doomsday scenarios of oil arriving on Ocean Drive have been overblown and that the GMCVB has put up high definition web cams on the beach to prove as much. So far he said they haven't felt any consequences of the Gulf oil spill, unlike counties in Northwest Florida. "We're not picking up any real noise or concerns about people vacationing or visiting for conferences." He points to the fact that Miami Beach was packed on Memorial Day and that 15,000 architects are currently arriving in Miami-Dade for a convention where they are estimated to spend $15 million.

Still, the prospect of oil muddying up South Beach's blue waves and tar balls replacing beach volleyballs has to be disconcerting. Right? Talbert is undeterred. Even a worse case scenario of tar balls floating up onto South Beach won't be enough to keep tourists away, he says. "Tar balls don't close a beach. And even if they did, there are so many other things to do in Miami."

Not unlike when the bureau is dealing with a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Talbert says it has contingency plans if the situation gets worse. "We are ready for any eventuality, if it turns and heads straight for us or just comes near Miami. In that way, the uncertainty about where the oil slick will go is the same a hurricane," he says.

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