St. Pete Mayor Roiling Over Panhandle Beach Ads

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster greets a supporter.
ST. PETERSBURG (2010-06-17) -

You may have seen the ads showing clean, pounding surf and birds flying above pristine Panhandle beaches. But no local beaches are spotlighted by that campaign by the state. And that has St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster roiling.

BP provided $25 million to the state for the ads. Most feature Panhandle beaches. Bill Foster says it makes no sense to lure tourists to beaches tainted by oil.

"When it comes to marketing, spend a lot of money marketing the areas that don't have a lot of oil," says Foster. "You need to heavily market those areas, because the perception is that because we are a Gulf community, there's no fishing - there's no swimming in the surf, the sands are covered. People in Europe don't know the difference between Pensacola and Fort DeSoto."

Foster says booking in Pinellas County are down by one-third. But since the BP money is already spent, he has little hope the still-clean beaches of Pinellas will hit the state's airwaves soon.

The governor's office said in a statement that "The focus has been on the counties who are immediately impacted by the spill. At this time, the Tampa Bay area is not projected to receive money for advertising and marketing purposes."

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