20100511 seagulls gulf coast 35
Seagulls stand on the beach as concern continues that the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may harm animals in its path in Gulfport, Miss. - 

Will the Gulf of Mexico have trouble recouping tourism dollars in the future? Yes, according to Peter Yesawich from YPartnership, a tourism marketing firm. Yesawich says places that are reliant on tourism dollars and have been hit by disaster are able to recover. But the type of recovery and how long it takes depends on the kind of disaster and tourists' perceptions of it.

Yesawich says places that suffer natural disasters can recover faster because people don't feel threatened after a calamity's happened. "The difference is whether or not you feel personally vulnerable to a threat," he says. "When you have issues of personal safety that arise, it changes all the rules of the game."

The good news for most places looking for tourist dollars, says Yesawich, is that "memories are very short."