The St. Petersburg Times reported today that the perception of oil may still be affecting Florida tourism, even in areas where the oil never approached the shore:

Last month, researchers working for Pinellas County interviewed 90 potential visitors via live video. Nearly one-third said the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area had been “very affected” or “somewhat affected” by the spill. Just over half of them planned to choose another vacation destination, said Walter Klages of Research Data Services in Tampa.

In a survey by Conde Nast Traveler magazine in mid July, most readers correctly identified Panhandle destinations Pensacola, Destin/Fort Walton Beach and Panama City as having oil on their beaches. But some also picked out west coast cities from St. Petersburg to Naples (16 percent) and even Jacksonville and Amelia Island (6 percent).

Orlando-based YPartnership has been asking travelers on behalf of Visit Florida how perceptions about the spill changed their vacation plans. Among the destination readers were less likely to visit were the Panhandle (20 percent), St. Petersburg (15 percent) and the Florida Keys (12 percent).

So far, BP has given Florida $75 million in grants to promote tourism.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, continues to report on its homepage that “All of the Sunshine State’s 825 miles of beaches and 1,260 miles of coastline are clean, clear and ‘Open for Business.’”

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