Viewpoint: September 1, 2010

As summer winds down and Labor Day approaches, people are planning those final summer getaways and those last few days at the beach. When disaster struck the Gulf back in April, no one could have predicted the impact on Gulf Coast beaches or tourism. After all, an oil spill of such magnitude was unprecedented.

By June, many people were canceling their vacation plans, fearing the arrival of oil on beaches. We saw  booms go out, tar balls surface and "no swimming" signs posted as oil  washed up on some Gulf Coast shorelines as beaches closed, hotels and tour operators experienced a dramatic loss in business.

Not only was this the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history but what a disaster for the coastal economy and tourism industry. In an effort to boost tourism, President Barack Obama visited Panama City Beach for a family vacation. He assured Americans beaches are safe and open for business. Gulf Coast businesses and residents are eager to see tourists visiting and spending.

So, if you haven't already made plans for the Labor Day weekend, consider a mini-vacation along the coast. It could be a nice getaway for you and your family, as well as a much-needed boost for an area that still has a lot to offer.