Most Gulf beaches open, but tourists remain wary

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The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has not affected the majority of the area's beaches, but it is still keeping tourists away, according to a report to be released today.

Almost all beach closings from the spill have been clustered in three areas of Louisiana, according to the 20th annual report on water quality at U.S. beaches by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the spill, which has spewed as much as 184 million gallons of oil since it began April 20, is worrying tourists and prompting dozens of health advisories throughout the Gulf, USA Today reports.

Closings or advisories have been issued for 49 of 253 monitored beach sites in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, the report says. Taken together, they cover 1,972 days so far this year; similar ones last year covered 237 days.

"We have not had any oil, any tarballs, anything within hundreds of miles of our beaches," D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater tourism authority, told the newspaper. "But perception is the problem."

Several conventions and an international volleyball tournament scheduled for the fall were canceled because of fears that the area's beaches will be polluted by then, Minich said. "They're concerned about buying non-refundable airline tickets into a place where they are concerned there might be a problem in the fall."

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