Come back, Mr. President, take in a Gulf state vacation

Barbour in particular has been criticized for supposedly downplaying the severity of the spill and spending too much time promoting the state’s Gulf Coast tourism concerns. But after taking a look for himself, Obama had the same reaction as Barbour offered.

The facts are that Mississippi is incredibly fortunate not to have oil on the state’s coastline – as Louisiana, Alabama and Florida have already experienced. Some suggest that Mississippi’s good fortunes have been less about luck than about geology – citing the state’s barrier islands and the undersea DeSoto Canyon as natural barriers to the oil reaching Mississippi’s coastlines.

But fear of the oil spill – and the 2 4/7 images of oil-coasted fish, birds and marine life on fouled beaches in the marshes of Louisiana – has taken a major toll on Mississippi tourism.

The Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association has been aggressive in lowering rate and offering other incentives like $75 gas cards to lure visitors back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

President Obama’s visit – and his Barbouresque tourism testimonial replete with consuming a plate of local seafood – will definitely help. But times are going to be tough for those in the tourism trade for months along the Gulf Coast. From Louisiana to Florida, the intersection of reality and fear over the oil spill has been a tourism accident scene.

An out-of-state caller who watched Obama sharing a snow cone with Barbour on the beach at Gulfport called me after the presidential visit with an observation too good not to share.

He said: “Seems to me that if President Obama really wants to help the Gulf region, he ought to take his own family on a vacation down there.”

Sid Salter