Travelers so far have been hesitant to book summer vacations to Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches, as the BP Gulf Oil spill saga continues to unfold.
That is a big mistake.
So far, the beaches have remained as pristine and spectacular as ever, and Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, has created an excellent network of real-time web-cams and on-site reporters so you can see conditions for yourself at the state’s beaches and destinations, on line in real time, VisitFlorida.com/FloridaLive (just click on the map) – muchlike the ski industry lets you see a real-time videocam to show conditions on the slopes.
But the fact that the beaches are unspoiled is all the more reason to go now to experience these treasures.
Like Venice, these treasures are not to be taken for granted.
Places like Sanibel Island, Caladesi Island State Park, Clearwater Beach, and Naples.
Some of Florida’s Gulf Coast beach destinations have gone so far as to offer liberal cancellation policies, such as the Beaches of South Walton, a destination located along a 26-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast and comprised of 15 picturesque beach communities, and white sand beaches and emerald green waters for which the region is renowned. It was named as one of the Top 12 travel destinations for 2010 by Frommer’s. (For more information about Beaches of South Walton, visit www.beachesofsouthwalton.com or contact the Visitor’s Center at 800-822-6877).
The South Walton TDC and lodging partners are monitoring conditions with the BP Oil spill closely, and partners are developing generous travel policies should any of the beaches be impacted. Visitors are encouraged to contact their lodging provider directly to discuss specific policies and programs. To keep visitors informed about beach conditions and the county’s preparedness the TDC is continuing to post daily updates and images on www.BSWupdate.com, including information on a fully funded action plan to protect the destination in the event of oil reaching the shore.
Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches are in many ways even more magnificent than its Atlantic Ocean beaches, and afford more ways to explore, experience and enjoy – there are the most magnificent nature preserves, world-renowned birding areas, and kayaking along designated trails.
“Visit Florida’s role to the consumer is to be a trustworthy provider of accurate information, so the traveler can make travel plans,” said Kenneth Morgan, Public Relations Manager. “We want vacationers to make their travel plans based on current information, not out of fear or misinformation. At this time, our beaches are clear and open, and not impacted in any way.”
The Florida Live site provides a Googlemap of the state – visitors can click on twitter feeds from various destinations and be linked at the “hyper-local level” to get up-to-date local information.
You can also find out about vacation deals and events.
More complete information about Florida’s plethora of destinations, including beaches is available from http://www.visitflorida.com/ with links to real-time information about local destinations.
You can click on the “Florida Live” tab to see photos and videos that are authentic, real (they are uploaded by local people).
Visit Florida has also created a “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program: a fan page on Facebook that Florida residents subscribe to and invite people to Florida.
The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel) is the best source for trip planning (12800 University Drive, Suite 550, Fort Myers, FL 33907, 239-338-3500, 800-237-6444, http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com, Email: VCB@leegov.com). It also has a link on its site for updates on the impact (or none) of the oil spill, which when we checked, had none and it was reported safe for swimming and fishing (http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/oil-spill).
Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, 401 Cleveland Street, Clearwater, Florida 33755, 888-425-3279 or 727-461-0011, http://www.visitclearwaterflorida.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. Clearwater Beach is also monitoring the oil spill situation. “We are monitoring the oil spill situation closely, but there are no negative impacts in Clearwater and we are open for business as usual.” For regular updates visit: www.dep.state.fl.us/
The Florida Keys & Key West tourism council has added a section to its www.fla-keys.com site to provide travelers up-to-date information on the TransOcean/BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The site provides official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oil slick trajectory maps as well as a Q&A section on the oil leaks. The 72-hour forecast maps are updated on a daily basis (visit www.fla-keys.com_.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate