A year ago this Wednesday news broke that there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
It caused an oil leak that would last three months, taking a devastating blow to the gulf’s tourism industry.
Tourists are already coming back and the attitude is far different from the fear of uncertainty business owners were feeling at this time last year.
“All of our general businesses were definitely a little bit confused. We had never had anything like this happen before so it was mostly fear about what’s going to happen next,” says Walton Area Chamber of Commerce President Kitty Whitney.
“We didn’t know what it was going to bring or what it was going to cause and we kept thinking it was going to be over soon, it was going to be over soon and as we all know they didn’t get it capped for quite a long time so it was that uncertainty that really manifested itself,” says Sandestin’s Vice President of Marketing Scott Russell.
The leak was finally capped on July 15th.
Russell says a lot of the area businesses used the year to make plans for how to handle the disaster.
“When it got capped we brought our plans together and said it’s over, we’ve got to move on, and we’ve got to get the perception correct out there that the oil’s not on the beach and that we’re open for business,” says Russell.
He says this first quarter is already showing a 30% increase over last year.
And businesses are looking toward the future with hopes that the growing number of visitors on their beaches is a good sign for the future.
“I certainly hope the worst is over, while I can’t predict what will actually happen with what’s out there. We have prepared ourselves as businesses to attack the situation going forward and to get back on track and to be resilient and refocus on getting our tourists back to the area,” says Whitney
The impact on the gulf’s environment is still a big question on everyone’s mind.
We’ll likely continue to see studies on the marine life for years to come.
Whitney with the chamber also says, one of the biggest things she’s noticed throughout this past year is how the different businesses throughout the community have bonded in an effort to bring the tourists back.