Barack Obama joined his family yesterday in Florida. He took a short trip there as he is going to hike up the area’s sagging tourism industry in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The US President, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha were planning to spend more time in Panama City than they actually did (the trip took only 27 hours).
Obama scheduled meetings with small business owners as the US government’s focus moves from plugging the oil leak to rebuilding the region’s economy.
The trip gave the president a good opportunity also to talk to those that have been affected by the damage. They discussed what has to happen going forward to restore the damage that’s been done, including from the economic and environmental sides.
Florida governor Charlie Crist and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor appointed by Obama to develop a long-term Gulf restoration plan, joined the president in the meeting with business owners.
The White House said that participants would include the mayors of Panama City and Panama City Beach, the general manager of a hotel chain that has had over 1,000 cancellations due to the spill, the owner of a charter boat company, and the co-owner of a restaurant.
In Florida, and particularly its Panhandle, tourism is the state’s top industry has been hurt most by the spill.
Tourism officials say the region typically brings in 70% of its yearly income between June and August.
The White House scheduled the Obamas’ weekend trip after facing criticism that the president wasn’t heeding his own advice that Americans should holiday in the Gulf.
The president has been spending time in North Carolina and is heading to Martha’s Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, later in August. His wife, Michelle Obama, also traveled to Spain this month with Sasha.