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First Family's holiday shows that Gulf Coast still open for business

THEY'RE like a typical family on holiday.

Dad buying ice cream by the seaside, mum whooping with joy as her daughter gets a hole in one at crazy golf, dad showing mum how to putt properly.

But they're not your typical family, and today US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and daughter Sasha were back in the White House after a holiday with a message.

After a weekend of watching porpoises and swimming in the sea, the message was that Florida's Gulf Coast was still open for business despite the recent oil spill.

The White House scheduled the trip after facing criticism that Obama wasn't heeding his own advice that Americans holiday in the Gulf.



Affected

He visited North Carolina this spring, Maine earlier this summer, and will head to Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, later this month. Mrs Obama also travelled to Spain this month with Sasha.

Although only 16 of the 180 beaches in the western part of the Florida Panhandle were affected by the spill, tourism officials say many potential visitors have stayed away, deterred by images of oil-slicked waters and tarball-strewn beaches.

Yesterday, Obama took Sasha for a swim in St Andrews Bay, a signal to other would-be holidaymakers that the water and the beaches are fine.

"Beaches all along the Gulf Coast are clean, they are safe, and they are open for business," Obama said.

The First Family spent much of yesterday at their beachfront hotel, venturing to Lime's Bayside Bar & Grill, where they relaxed on an outdoor deck overlooking the water and ate a lunch of fish tacos, chicken tenders and burgers. They later headed into town for a round of miniature golf, where Sasha (9) stole the show with a hole-in-one off the first tee.

Though the oil is no longer spewing from BP's offshore oil rig that exploded on April 20 and killed 11 workers, Obama told residents that there is still much work to be done, and he promised that the government would not abandon them.

"I'm here to tell you that our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is," Obama said.

hnews@herald.ie