Travel and Tourism Meeting in New Orleans Hosted By U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke
Tourists were roll'in on the river on the Creole Queen this afternoon, and the City of New Orleans wants to keep them coming, despite the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is the first Travel and Tourism Meeting of its kind hosted by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke who flew from Washington, D.C. to attend.

Stephen Perry, the President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau says the City of New Orleans, even though there is no oil here, is starting to feel the economic effects of the disaster because of a perception problem, "but we have begun to see the changes already this past month that the powerful impact this kind of issue has on brand and on perception."

The issue, in a word is oil.

Perry says "all over the country in Chicago in New York City, in Williamsburg, Virginia you see signs in the restaurant windows 'which say 'we do not serve gulf seafood.' This is a devastating thing not only for the fisheries and fishing industry itself but the implication is would you want to go visit places where the seafood is not safe and that's the core part of their brand."

The state of Alabama currently running ads, hoping to lure tourists back to the beach. BP paying the bill for the commercials. One features Singer Jimmy Buffett's sister, "I'm Lucy Buffett and I love my gorgeous Alabama beaches, we're keepin a close eye on the beaches so you can enjoy them too."

Gary Locke, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, told the advisory board at the meeting at the Hilton Riverside, "and let's be candid here the recovery is going to take a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of money and we're going to have to continually hold BP accountable and hold its feet to the fire."

The meeting attended by folks who have a huge stake in the continued success of New Orleans, and the surrounding area.

For example, seated at the table, Adam Goldstein, the President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International.

Locke pointed out "it's also noteworthy Royal Caribbean is bringing their cruise ships back to New Orleans for the 1st time since Hurricane Katrina."

It's estimated if the City of New Orleans does not turn around this national perception problem, Perry estimates the Travel and Tourism Industry in the city could loose almost $500 million dollars and face a 10-percent cut in jobs resulting in the loss of 7,000 positions.

Currently 70,000 people work in the Hospitality Industry in New Orleans.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has requested $75 million from BP to promote Tourism and to pay for new advertising over the next three years.