St. Pete/Clearwater Tourism Director to Testify before House Committee

Minich to warn lawmakers of potential harm to beaches, tourism industry

Thursday, February 5, 2009

St. Pete/Clearwater, FL (February 5, 2009) – D.T. Minich, Executive Director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater (VSPC), has been invited to testify in Washington D.C. next week before the House Committee on Natural Resources to discuss the issue of offshore drilling.

The oversight hearing, entitled —Offshore Drilling: Environmental and Commercial Perspectives,” will take place next Wednesday, February 11, at 10 a.m. in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, DC. 

Minich will speak on behalf of the local tourism industry, testifying that drilling along the Gulf Coast would unnecessarily jeopardize Pinellas County’s award-winning beaches and potentially cripple the area’s number one economic driver: tourism. 

The issue carries particular weight in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, which is situated on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa Bay and draws almost 14 million visitors to its 35 miles of white-sand beaches each year. 

Last year, two area beaches were named #1 in the U.S. by two different rating authorities: TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel community, named Fort De Soto’s North Beach the nation’s best, while Coastal Geologist Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka —Dr. Beach”) put Dunedin’s Caladesi Island State Park at the top of his annual list. 

While recognizing America’s ever-growing energy needs, Pinellas County tourism industry leaders have remained adamant in their opposition to increased drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast, since industry watchers admit that, even under normal operations, Gulf-based oil platforms can bring debris and tar to the shores. 

—When I testify before Congress next week, it’s my job to let lawmakers know what’s in the best interest of our area and our tourism community,” says Minich, who is on the board of both the United States Travel Association (USTA) and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). 

—Tourism, not oil, is the number one driver of our economy, and our most valuable natural resource is the beach,” he adds. —It’s in everyone’s best interest to protect that at all cost.” 

Next week’s hearing is the first in a series that the House Committee will be holding on the issue of offshore drilling. Future hearings, scheduled for February 24 and 25, are titled —State Perspectives” and —Industrial Perspectives” respectively.

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater is the official destination marketing organization for Pinellas County, Florida.

For more information:
Contact: Assistant Director David Downing:
Phone: 727.464.7213

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