After four weeks of voting by readers, USA Today declared Galveston the second best destination for spring break, behind only Cancun, Mexico.
That public relations coup lasted just a few days.
On March 22, a collision between a cargo ship and a barge spilled oil into Galveston Bay. The spill made national news.
The news was followed in detail locally. People in this area knew that oil was on the Texas City Dike, Pelican Island and Galveston’s far east end. But they also knew that most of the island’s beaches were not heavily damaged. Volunteers combing the beaches found spots for the cleanup crews to pick up.
It was not, as spills go, horrific.
Local folks knew all that.
But readers of national newspapers saw only broad accounts of the spill. Few took the time to figure out whether the oil had reached the beach in front of the hotel where they had planned to stay.
And so it is that, while officials with the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies are talking about scaling back the response to the spill, hotels in Galveston have been getting calls canceling reservations for June and July.
The point of all this ought to be obvious: People and institutions lost business because of the spill.
And, while it’s good that officials are talking about scaling back the response to the spill, it’s time to acknowledge that our tourism business is going to have a hangover.
It’s time for people in the community — particularly the business community — to try recapture that message that Galveston is still the best spot north of Cancun for a relaxing break.
It’ll take some money to get that word out. But we ought to spend it — and we ought not to be shy about sending the bills to the responsible party.