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In the early morning hours of April 20th 2010 an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig tragically took the lives of 11 crewmen and marked the beginning to the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Now a year later, as we remember those who were lost in this tragedy, the Gulf coast is on its way toward recovery, but there is still a long way to go.

Gulf coast residents and businesses are hoping for a better tourist season this year, after the abysmal season they suffered last year as a result of the spill. Many areas are reporting that they are seeing an increase in visitors from last year, but it is not yet clear just how good this season will be. Thankfully most of the beaches and major tourist destinations are free of oil, but many say that their customers still have their doubts.

Of course the economy is not helping matters. Regions that depend on tourist dollars have historically struggled in down economies, but with rising fuel costs and no relief in sight it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people cut down on non-essential expenses causing even greater hardship for a region that has already been through so much.

Over the last year, more than 500,000 individuals and businesses have filed claims for economic losses and over $3.8 billion have been paid out according to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). More $25 million has been paid out to satisfy some 3,500 claims made by individuals and working in the tourism and recreation industry, with an additional $56 million being paid out to tourism and recreation businesses.

Recovery is a not something that occurs over night, it is long and arduous process, but through the hard-work and perseverance of the great people of the Gulf coast, recovery is on the way.

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