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Costa Concordia Wreck a Hot Spot for Rubberneckers

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Sunday’s Titanic centennial has already made James Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox (NWS), and Paramount (VIA) a lot of money -- especially in China, where Titanic 3D broke records. Better yet, it managed to do so without the undoubted appeal of a naked Kate Winslet.

Elsewhere, an almost equally famous shipwreck, the Costa Concordia, has been more of a mixed bag financially. Beyond the $139 million first quarter loss posted by Costa Cruises’ parent company Carnival (CCL), the wreck has had an interesting effect on the nearby island of Giglio.

According to the New York Times, the island attracted 23,000 visitors last year but early lodging bookings show a 20% drop for this summer. This might be bad news for the island, many of whose residents also leave for the winter.

Tourists have expressed concerns over pollution from the wreck and a fear of running into emergency personnel. These fears exist in spite of the fact that salvage experts pumped out the cruise ship’s fuel after the crash, minimizing the risk of environmental damage.

That said, while overnight bookings are down, Giglio is quickly finding itself as a hot spot for day-trippers. These vacationers come to take pictures of the wreck and generally take in the spectacle of large-scale human catastrophe.

So far, journalists and rescue workers have had a bigger impact on the local economy than rubber necking tourists, but some on the island are optimistic. The president of the local tourism bureau, for example, told the Times that, “not even Coca-Cola (KO) could have afforded such worldwide publicity.”

Other residents and business owners on Giglio are less sure and point out that day-trippers don’t actually spend a lot of money. Many are still worried about the town’s prospects as a tourist destination after the disaster.

It remains to be seen how the island will fare over the next couple of years, putting it in much the same boat as the cruise industry (forgive the pun). Unfortunately, unlike Costa Cruises, a name change might not help in this situation.
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