Melanie Kaplan is an intern in the Office of Advisory Committees and entering her junior year at Wellesley College.
From the now infamous “shrimpers” to the hotel owners in Louisiana to the restaurant employees in Florida panhandle, the BP oil spill has caused wide-spread devastation. Not only is the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) working to counteract the damage, the whole Department of Commerce has stepped up to help Gulf Coast residents and businesses stay ahead of the “orange tide.” Everyone is making an effort to address the harrowing situation at hand from daily conference calls on an inter-bureau level to an inter-agency group working to provide needed relief. The International Trade Administration and the Office of Advisory Committees (OAC) are no exception and worked hard to plan this past Monday’s meeting of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) in New Orleans. Given the oil spill and the upcoming five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans seemed the perfect locale to step back and think about how the government and private sector can work together to promote travel and tourism in the region.
Secretary Locke, along with several other senior Commerce officials and the TTAB committee members supported those suffering from the damages of the oil spill by discussing how they can encourage travel and tourism in the Gulf. On that note, BP recently gave $15 million to the State of Louisiana to fund a marketing campaign to help combat the effects of the oil spill on tourism. At the meeting, Secretary Locke pointed out it was a welcomed contribution and reinforced that “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.” Furthermore, the unity demonstrated by government and business at the meeting highlighted the importance of the jobs created by the travel and tourism sector, which directly and indirectly includes one in every sixteen Americans. As an intern, I have helped plan the event from participating in conference calls to updating the guest list, and putting together briefing binders, and am happy to have made my own small contribution to improving the lives of the Gulf Coast residents and businesses. If you are interested in volunteering or just want more information on efforts to restore the Gulf, please visit RestoreTheGulf.gov, the official federal portal for the Deepwater BP oil spill response and recovery.