Gulf Coast residents are hoping a brief visit by President Barack Obama, the first lady, daughter Sasha and the family dog, Bo, will jump-start tourism in the beleaguered region. Mr. Obama said his family planned to “enjoy the beach and the water — to let our fellow Americans know that they should come on down here,” The Associated Press reported.
The president had been criticized for recommending that Americans schedule their vacations on the Gulf Coast while spending his own vacation time in North Carolina and Maine.
Mr. Obama, who has visited the Gulf region several times since the spill started, has a better view of the situation than most Americans, who have to choose destinations for their vacation travels based on the information available to them. Viewed from here in the Flyover Zone, that information has been confusing. We’ve seen the pictures of oil-drenched birds, widespread containment booms and tar balls on beaches, and we’ve read wildly varying — but always enormous — estimates of the amount of oil that was gushing out under the sea day after day.
Then, after a couple of months of viewing and reading about a disaster of Biblical proportions, we’re told that BP finally has the thing plugged — well, maybe; the government’s still checking it out — and as if by magic, the sea seems to be cleaning itself up with oil-munching microbes or some such, and the president thinks it’s a great idea for Americans to vacation at the Gulf Coast and aid its struggling tourism industry.
As Oklahomans, we’ve seen enough prairie fires to be in awe of nature’s ability to recover from disasters, but the thought did cross our cynical minds, “If the president thinks it’s such a great place to vacation, why isn’t he there?” The fact that he did take his family to enjoy the beach and the water was, as Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said, “the biggest single commercial you could imagine.”
We hope it gives the hoped-for boost to the region’s tourism industry.