An odd thing happened to most Florida beaches after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Nothing.
Florida has 1,197 miles of coastline and 663 miles of beaches, yet beyond the Panhandle, zero percent has been affected; in the Panhandle, less than 1/3 has been impacted, and even that has been mild.
Outside areas close to Alabama and Louisiana, no oil slicks, tar balls, or tar mats have appeared. It may be luck. It may be temporary. Certainly tons of oil floats somewhere, though much has been incapacitated by dispersants (also controversial) and burning. Time is in Florida’s favor, though: As oil ages, it becomes solid, albeit sticky, and a future problem will probably be more inconvenient than critical.
While the beaches have not been sullied with oil, however, they’ve also not been filled with tourists. The oil crisis unjustly scared them away.
Did the media overplay the danger of oil problems? No. It’s the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Did the media target Florida tourism? No. Only one report announced oil had been found on Florida beaches south of the Panhandle (in the Keys), and the media announced later that it was unrelated to the BP oil spill.
Still, the sheer amount of media coverage did the trick. If a crisis garners the top news spot for months, it’s big. Why gamble on the family vacation? That also makes it a good time visit, however, as restaurants and innkeepers try to recoup
losses by offering great deals.
For official updates after this post, link to the state’s tourism arm, Visit Florida. In addition to official links, it provides an update – beach by beach – about warnings, closings, etc.: http://www.visitflorida.com/florida_travel_advisory.