Panhandle Tourism Takes a Hit Even Though Beaches are Beautiful

Destin, Fla.
Destin, Fla.

The beaches in Destin, Fla., were beautifully clear this past weekend for Memorial Day. Yet many of the visitors stayed away.

No oil or tar balls have hit the pristine Florida panhandle. Still, patrons are afraid. The key drive markets throughout the South have seen constant coverage of oil in the Gulf.

We have had the pleasure of representing resorts and vacation homes across the panhandle, and what is unfolding is another undeserved blow for the region. For the past three summers, many of the resorts suffered thanks to the economy. The mayor of Destin told CBS Evening News this was supposed to be the recovery year: The year when people from Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta and points beyond ventured back to these wonderful Florida beaches.

Oil has caused the recovery to slide off course.

Florida officials have said it will take a concentrated effort to tell tourists that it’s still okay to enjoy the Florida beaches. They are right. No matter what happens with the oil, it is going to take consistent and honest reporting of the beaches’ conditions for the tourists to have the confidence to return in full force. Educational public relations is going to be key for full recovery.

Perception – unfortunately for Destin, Fla. – is reality. The facts say the coast is clear for now. Some tourists are not taking chances and have picked other summer fun spots.

Recovery is coming. But with an uncapped oil well not expected to be resolved soon, that elusive recovery will likely have to wait.

Destin is destined to give great travel deals this summer. This wonderful community deserves support.