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Tallahassee Chamber Prepares for Beach Retreat in Spite of Oil

By Gina Jordan

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-913654.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – It's almost time for the Tallahassee Chamber's annual conference. The group will meet in Destin this year, despite the oil slick in the Gulf. Gina Jordan has more.

It was a tough decision, whether to keep the conference in Destin next month as originally planned, or move it because of the oil spill. Lee Daniel, executive director of Visit Tallahassee, says in the end, it was about standing behind businesses in the region.

"I think it's a wonderful time to show support for those in the hospitality industry that have taken a pretty severe hit in terms of their business because of the perception, not necessarily the reality, but the perception that oil has fouled the beaches all along the gulf coast."

Daniel says a study commissioned by Visit Florida found that ten percent of those surveyed nationally said they were travelling some place other than Florida this summer because of the spill.

"If you take that and you look at the millions of people that come to Florida every year during those three months when school's out, it's a tremendous number. It's going to have a tremendous negative economic impact on all of us in the industry."

The conference will feature sessions on marketing, community projects, and job growth. Sue Dick, president of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, says there will also be a session on the oil spill impact and recovery.

"A lot of people are saying Tallahassee is not located on the coast. Well, we counter that by saying we promote our region, and we have two neighboring counties that are on the coast. And between Wakulla and Franklin County, we promote regionalism, and so we are all impacted by this and we want to make sure we have the most up to date information."

320 attendees have signed up for the trip, and not all of them are members of the chamber.

"We have participants who are individual business owners. We have nonprofit organizations. We have individuals in the educational region that come out that really want to know what's going on the community and look at our community as a great resource to participate. And it's a great way to have an enjoyable weekend but also grow your network and make some key contacts."

As for any oil on Destin's beaches, Marshall Thompson says that hasn't been much of a problem. He is vice president of sales at the Hilton Sandestin Beach resort, which is hosting the group. He says some tar balls have washed ashore, but they were concentrated in one small area.

"We were there to get them cleaned up, removed immediately. The beaches might have been closed for swimming for a couple of hours, but to date the beaches have not and the waters have not been closed at all."

The hotel has a webcam that shows the beach in real time. Thompson says visitors are still coming, and he's only had one group cancel.

"We are open for business. Our beaches are beautiful, and we just want people to know that when they see some pictures that are broadcast on the media and they're continuing to talk about areas, it's not our area right now."

The chamber conference will be held August 13 - 15 in Destin. Registration is available on the Tallahassee chamber's website.

Visit the following links below for more information:

http://talchamber.com/

http://guest.cvent.com/EVENTS/Info/Summary.aspx?e=7ddd9e37-fa26-4fc8-9d05-7cd2a83e7ed3

http://www.sandestinbeachhilton.com/webcam.aspx