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What the Gulf Oil Spill Means for Tourists

Right now, there are a whole bunch of nervous tourists on Gulf Coast beaches ready to twitch away at the first sight of black oil washing onto those pristine white sands. Parents are expressing concern about having their children swim in Florida’s western waters, diving and fishing charters are being called off in the Keys, birds and turtles crying tears of oil are washing up on shore in Mississippi, no one’s ordering the N’awlins oysters, and many regional Gulf Coast resorts, hotels, and vacation rentals are fielding cancellation calls for as far away as August. But are the worries to tourists overblown?

At this point, it’s very hard to say, but all indications are that what’s happened in the Gulf is nothing short of unprecedented. And this is a region that’s been through the ringer in recent years. Pounded by catastrophic hurricanes, places like New Orleans and Biloxi are still dealing with the economic aftermath of Mother Nature’s fury, and a preventable event like this oil spill is the very sad equivalent of kicking someone when they’ve been down and are in the defiant and spirited act of getting back up.

This is also an event that can’t really be compared to the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. While it remains to be seen which of these two events is the larger spill in tonnage, there’s no doubt that the Gulf region is much more economically active than that near isolated Valdez. The fisherfolk who stock up so many tourist-frequented restaurants from Texas to Florida are worried about their livelihoods, and, right now, are having to join the volunteers and BP employees who are scurrying up and down the coast on foot and by boat frantically attempting to contain a situation that surged very quickly beyond anyone’s control.

According to an article in the Washington Post, a worst-case scenario is that oil could be carried by currents as far up the East Coast as Cape Hatteras. Only time will tell. But, for now, I say hold onto your vacation plans, and keep fingers crossed for a speedy—and successful—clean-up effort, and for continued resilience in a spectacular, much-loved region that desperately deserves a good break.


My name: Rachel Berg.

Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.

View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.

Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.

Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.


Susan Kennedy

This is just so horrible. It will be years before all the mess is cleaned up. Marine eco-systems can bounce back from this kind of thing but it takes a LONG time. If the wetlands are damaged then it could be bad news for those inland as well, because these act as buffers that take some of the worst of the hurricanes.

Cherokee County Homes For Sale

I’m planning on going to Panama City in June and am very concerned if the spill is going to affect the beaches there. I pray for a speedy solution. Especially for the people of the gulf region.

Makeup tips

I can’t even imagine the devastation that would be caused with oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico for three months or more. What can the Gulf Coast population expect over the next three months?

Stevens Point Hotel

I am just planning to go gulf coast….this post really helpful for me….nice information.


Its just so sad. Hopefully they fix the problem before it gets to shore and harms the environment even more.

Sahara Desert

i live in mobile alabama and the oil spill its expected to reach our beaches on sunday may 2nd… i heard that there was h2s gas in crude oil is there? and if there is could it affect all the gulf coast when the oil reaches it? and if it could then why havent officials said anything about the h2s gas… all i know about h2s gas is that it smells like rotten eggs and it can kill you if you breathe it in for 2 minutes…. could it be in the air when the oil comes ashore?

Jacques Lemans

I can’t even imagine the devastation that would be caused with oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico for three months or more.

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