I have spent a lot of time visiting the various tourist destinations in Florida.
It is a state that I really like going to, with a tourist infrastructure that is amongst the best in the nation and as service industry that actually is proud of the work it does in making people from away feel at home.
Snow birds flock to this state every winter, an important segment of the economy that has created jobs and helped take the hospitality and entertainment industries to significant heights.
Today that is threatened.
The oil spill is not just about the gulf coast. Its impact will spread inland as well, as tourists who seek variety in their vacations look for other options.
And who can blame them? I have walked through oil spattered beaches, and through the occasional cow pasture in my youth.
Believe me, dodging cow pies and oil blotches is pretty much the same.
Having your bare feet touch slick oil or your shoes splattered cow turd is a distasteful experience.
Tonight the president will give his address to the nation on the BP spill, their efforts to clean it up, and presumably a tough stand on penalties.
I am sure it will all sound good and we will all cheer appropriately.
But if the oil is not capped and the slicks and sand not cleaned by fall, Florida tourism is likely to take a hard hit.
I know their a many other sectors of the economy to be concerned about…particularly the fishing industry. And I am painfully aware of the devastating effect this spill is having on birds and other wildlife.
But I am in the business of sending nice people to nice places. And they won’t go if the destination has challenges of any kind…witness Athens and Bangkok.
Each time we have a dramatic event, natural or man created, enthusiams dips for the entire region.
I live far away from Florida, but like people who will pay more for seafood, or who have invested in companies with properties in the state, or who make a living sending people to the region, we are all affected.
We all need to be part of the debate surrounding oil exploration and how we will demand a safer industry going forward.
Looking backwards we all cheered a lot after the political speeches were made in past spills, but really, our hands were clapping for words, not action.