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ECU researchers survey coastal business perception of drilled oil risks

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Oct. 28, 2010)   —   East Carolina University researchers want to know what tourism businesses and organizations perceive as the potential effects of an oil spill or leak off the coast.

Researchers this week finished collecting data for a study funded by North Carolina Sea Grant that will provide a baseline for future comparison if oil becomes present on the coast.

A key factor in the state’s economy, tourism businesses and organizations seek to maintain stable income under uncertain conditions. “The study will identify concerns of North Carolina tourism employers and managers, especially in wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast,” said Steve Rebach, North Carolina Sea Grant associate director.

Risk managers, tourism authorities and businesses could use the results to address concerns if tourism businesses are affected by future oil spills or leaks. The results may also help state and local governments and industry leaders to be proactive in setting policies and procedures to deal with such an event.

“Tourism is of such great importance to North Carolina, particularly dominating the coastal region economy; it accounts for over $16 billion of visitor expenditures and generates over 190,000 jobs for North Carolinians,” said Patrick Long, Ph.D., director of ECU’s Center for Sustainable Tourism. “Understanding and preparing for disasters before they occur can potentially lessen the severity of their impacts and serve to protect the businesses upon which our economy depends.”

The ECU research team includes:
  • Huili Hao, Ph.D., research director, Center for Sustainable Tourism
  • Whitney Knollenberg, graduate student in Sustainable Tourism
  • Catherine Smith, Ph.D., professor in the English Department
  • Ken Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Sociology Department
  • Donna Kain, Ph.D., associate professor in the English Department
  • Rebecca Powers, Ph.D., associate professor in the Sociology Department
  • Patrick Long, Ph.D., director, Center for Sustainable Tourism
The team also involves undergraduate students who conducted telephone interviews with employers and managers of tourism businesses and organizations.

The ECU Center for Sustainable Tourism is dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism throughout the eastern N.C. region, North Carolina and the nation through innovation in graduate education, leadership development, community consultation and collaborative research. For more information about the Center, visit

North Carolina Sea Grant is an inter-institutional program of the University of North Carolina system that provides research, education and outreach opportunities relating to current issues affecting the North Carolina coast and its communities. For more information about North Carolina Sea Grant, visit


Contact: Whitney Knollenberg | 269-491-3060