Orange Beach, Ala., Mayor Works to Bring Tourists Back
Mayor Tony Kennon has pushed for bigger beach cleanup efforts, faster settlement of claims and larger marketing budgets to bring visitors back to Alabama's Gulf Coast.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded last year, the sight of tarballs floating onto Gulf beaches became all too familiar. Beach towns like Orange Beach, Ala., saw the tourists on whom their livelihood depends disappear practically overnight -- the city’s lodging revenue dropped about $1 million between 2009 and 2010. Frustrated by BP’s slow cleanup efforts, the city’s Mayor Tony Kennon publicly challenged the company at a press conference last year. “We should be like Disney World: Somebody throws a piece of trash down, there ought to be somebody right behind them, getting it up within 10 seconds,” Kennon said.
Since then, Kennon may as well be an accountability czar for BP, pushing for bigger beach cleanup efforts, faster settlement of claims and larger marketing budgets to bring visitors back to Alabama’s Gulf Coast. When BP completed a major cleaning of the beach, Kennon made sure it was done right by having city workers put a 12-inch auger on the back of a John Deere tractor and drill 10,000 holes, 4 feet deep, looking for any evidence of oil.
With the beaches clean, business owners are optimistic tourism will bounce back. The city has already seen plenty of snowbirds and spring breakers so far this season, Kennon says. “[But] if we don’t have a good summer, then this off season will be devastating.”
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