Going for a Holiday on the Gulf Coast?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

If you believe the media why would you want to go on holiday to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida? All the beaches are covered with oil, wildlife is dying and you can’t go swimming. You would be right in thinking that the sentence above is bunkum but what is the truth? We saw on TV with our own eyes the catastrophe as it evolved. The newspapers had page after page of appalling stories of how fishermen were losing their livelihoods and that it would take years before the coastline and the environment got back to normal.
What is the state of play?
Not having been there, I cannot say how bad it really was or is but an editorial in USA Today, the only general national newspaper in the USA, makes a telling point. Last week it suggested that the media had exaggerated the story. It now says that some of the predictions and the information was inaccurate. But it also highlighted a deeper problem. Those images that were flashed around the world are still those in people’s minds. They were put off going to the area because they thought their holidays would be ruined by what they would find. Refreshing as it is for the media – or at least one newspaper – to admit to distorting (for that is what exaggeration is) what it found, the tourist authorities have to persuade us that we should still consider those destinations.
Almost from day one, the people in New Orleans were pointing out that the place is around 100 miles away from the coast. But people equated New Orleans with the Gulf. Even though the Atlantic coastline of Florida never saw any of the spillage it felt the results in a downturn in visitors. Florida has cameras mounted on its beaches and you could see via live webcam how clean the beaches were. Florida has tested the water daily and has yet to find any unsafe levels. All the states gave daily reports and business dropped. But did it? 60% of hotels according to one source saw an increase in bookings and they can’t have all just been journalists. So whilst it was bad, perhaps it was tourism that was more affected. Perception is a hard thing to fight even when it is wrong.
And that perception continues today. The Alabama Attorney-General is going to sue BP (strangely this is against the advice of the state Governor) for “catastrophic harm” and one figure being bandied around is in billions. The US Travel Association wants BP and its contractors to pay for a $500 million advertising blitz to attract visitors back to the area. But figures like this only suggest to future visitors that the situation must have been very bad otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for so much. And if it was, maybe we should stay away a bit longer.
That’s not the case. In the last 24 hours, Alabama has said it is safe to go back in the water and all fishing can recommence. It is safe to eat shrimp and fish caught in the coastal waters. In Louisiana, the shrimp fisherman head out today for the first time since the spill began. The webcams show inviting clean beaches. Even Mr Obama went swimming off the Florida Gulf coast yesterday to show how clean it was. Forget what most of the media is saying. Give the Gulf a chance especially since there are some good deals to be had. Once everyone finds out they may not be around.

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