September 24 2010 | Latest NewsAngelle, BP talk tourism dollars
No decisions reached, he says
Friday, September 24, 2010
By Ed Anderson
BATON ROUGE -- Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle and BP officials met Thursday and decided to meet again next week to discuss the state's request that the oil giant pay $75 million to promote Louisiana's tourism and seafood industries that have been hurt by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Angelle and three key BP officials met for 75 minutes in the lieutenant governor's Baton Rouge office but reached no decisions.
The meeting "did not meet my expectations," Angelle said. "I was disappointed they didn't come here with their sleeves rolled up and ready to dive into the data. They said they needed another week and didn't come prepared to discuss the data. But this is their problem. It is not going to go away."
BP officials in Houston said the meeting was part of "an ongoing dialogue" and a "continuing conversation" with state officials on the tourism issue.
They said the company will "carefully consider" the request. BP declined further comment.
The British-based oil company has already given the state $15 million to help it market tourism during the summer vacation months. Tourism officials say 97 percent of that has been spent or committed.
Angelle, who oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the state's chief tourism promotion agency, said that recent studies indicate that of the tourists who were planning to visit Louisiana, 29 percent canceled or postponed those trips because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The study also said that 48 percent of a national audience of potential travelers believe that seafood from the Gulf is not safe, a perception several state agencies have been working to overcome.
Angelle said that although the three BP officials he met with may not have known the specifics of the tourism studies, "I have a very difficult time believing BP has not seen the data. I clearly believe I got their attention; I think I have their focus.
"They told me they are committed (to addressing the problem); I take them at their word. They have had a lot of balls in the air and they dropped the tourism ball. ... They were very apologetic. I'm not interested in an apology; I am interested in results."
Angelle said he wrote letters to BP officials in July and earlier this month that went unanswered.
Angelle spokeswoman Anna Dearmon said the BP officials who attended the meeting were Luke Keller, executive vice president for BP America's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization; Iris Cross, a New Orleans native and general manager of external affairs of the restoration organization who is featured in BP ads; and Mary Jo Jacobi, special adviser for external affairs to the restoration organization. She said New Orleans-area public relations executive Malcolm Ehrhardt also accompanied the three oil company officials.
Besides Angelle, the state was represented by tourism department Secretary Pam Breaux, Dearmon and Melody Alijani, director of research for the tourism agency.
Angelle is expected to testify about the effects of the spill on tourism next week when he appears before a presidential commission in Washington, D.C.
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Ed Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225.342.5810.