Researchers say oil rig disaster will cost Mississippi millions

By Sheri Falk - bio | email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A study released earlier this week by USM Researchers determine the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico will cost Mississippi's three coastal counties nearly $120 million in revenue.

David But ler, a USM Associate Professor of International Development along with a team of researchers have been  studying the social and economic impact of Mississippi's Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. Recent data projects a 5% revenue loss along the coast from May to August 2010, compared to the same time period in 2009.

Butler says, even though the oil has not reached South Mississippi beaches, tourism is taking a hard hit. Non-casino hotel revenue is already down by 50-percent,  These figures include the tourism and service sectors related to hotels, restaurants and food and beverage outlets. It does not include the losses in the seafood sectors such as shrimping.

"No oil has washed up on Mississippi beaches, yet the economic impact is very significant to the people of the Gulf Coast," said Butler. "It's significant because of the negative images portrayed by the national news coverage."

According to the Southern Miss report, seafood restaurants are down at least 30 percent from this time last year. However, at the same time, seafood prices are up an average of 30 percent. Which makes it difficult for seafood restaurants to remain profitable, maintain their staffs, and pay their bills. The research shows non-seafood restaurants are down 15 percent over the same period in 2009 due to the drop in tourism.

"The quandary in which tourism related businesses find themselves is that they can't look forward to 2011 and say things will get better. Butler says, "Until the oil leak is stopped, no one can foresee a beginning date for when a turnaround might begin."

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