Deepwater Horizon, COVID-19 and their impact on Alabama’s tourism


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — It was on April 20, 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the largest spill in the nation’s history and resulted in the death of 11 people. 

A decade later beaches and some businesses are closed along the gulf coast, but this time it because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When the oil spill happened, we didn’t know how long it was going to take to reach our beaches. And we didn’t know how long this was gonna last,” said Lee Sentell.

It was one the most devastating times financially for state tourism.

“As we remember this tragic event, we recognize the human cost of the oil spill and remember those whose loved ones were lost or injured in the incident and those that were affected in coastal Alabama,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “We will never forget how we felt during those troubled times and how greatly our coastal communities were impacted. Since the events of that tragic day, Alabama, the other Gulf states and our federal partners have worked diligently to repair the ecological, environmental and economic damages that were inflicted in the Gulf of Mexico and along the shorelines of our Gulf Coast states. That work continues today and will continue for years to come.”

Alabama will receive more than $1.4 billion through 2032 from the various funding sources established after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to conduct restoration projects in the state. The restoration work is coordinated and administered by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).

“You can see by the numbers that the recovery from 10 years ago has been dramatic and it’s been sustained,” said Sentell.

State’s tourism director Lee Sentell says Alabama’s beaches make up about 40% of the tourism dollars.

Now, the state’s beaches and businesses find themselves in another financial woe.

“The way that the governor is handling this now, we know that this is going to be a very measured approach,” said Sentell.

Many people are wondering when the beaches will be back open, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris says it takes about two weeks to see if the Stay at Home Order is working.

“So after a couple of weeks, I think we’ll have a good idea of where we are and then can make better decisions about where to go next,” said Sentell.

Sentell says it’s still too early to tell just how much the state will lose in tourism dollars because of COVID-19.


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