UPDATE: Friday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Just before leaving for a mini-vacation in Maine, President Obama wouldn’t commit on whether the first family will be going to Florida’s beaches soon, even though he and the first lady previously had suggested that vacationers visit the Gulf region.
In an interview with NBC News, the president said that the location for any additional Obama family trips has yet to be selected. “We’re going to try and figure out where we’re going to be able to take some time over the course of the summer,” he said.
Local media in Massachusetts recently speculated that the first family will return to Martha’s Vineyard, where they vacationed in 2009. But by the president’s account, the family schedule – not oil – is the deciding factor in planning more R&R this season. “A month of it is going to be taken up with Malia going away for camp,” he said.
President Obama left for Bar Harbor, ME, Friday morning.
July 13, 2010 | 7:39 PM ET
When President Obama sat among local officials at a snack bar in Pensacola, Florida last month, he emphasized that the Sunshine State's beaches were "open for business" and vowed to do everything his administration could to help those in the region. Well, maybe not everything. When the president and his family go away later this week for a mini-vacation, they'll be traveling almost 2,000 miles away from the oil spill, escaping the heat in Washington for the cooler weather up north at Mount Desert Island, Maine.
Yet the vacation spot being touted by Michelle Obama on Monday was the Gulf coast. During her first trip to the region after the oil spill, the first lady encouraged Americans to head down South and visit, emphasizing that "most of the coast is still open for business.” Mrs. Obama lamented that many are only seeing what has been reported in the media about the oil spill, and thus might not realize there are plenty of towns and beaches along the Gulf Coast that are awaiting tourists. “Most of these beaches are perfectly clean," she said.
When asked if the first family was making arrangements to vacation along the gulf beaches, especially after encouraging others to do so, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said no vacation plans had been changed.
Florida, with a coastline of over 1,200 miles, is one of the country's top tourist destinations and generates over $60 billion a year in taxable sales revenue. The state's tourism industry also employs over one million Floridians -- something that was not lost on the first lady. During her stop in Panama City Beach on Monday she said "folks here in Florida and across the Gulf Coast are still depending on visitors and tourist dollars to put food on their tables and to pay their mortgages and to send their kids to college." After a barefoot walk on the beach, the first lady helped Florida's tourism sales by indulging in a cup of chocolate ice cream at an ice cream shop. BP has already agreed to give Florida money for marketing and advertising campaigns that will focus on convincing travelers the state's beaches are safe.
Maine would mark the president's third vacation trip since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into gulf waters, over 80 days ago. The first family spent Memorial Day weekend relaxing in Chicago and just three days after the crisis began, Mr. Obama traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for a weekend getaway with the first lady and indulged in a round of golf. Since then, the president has hit the links nine times since the beginning of the oil spill prompting the Republican National Committee to unveil a website Monday, "Golf or Gulf," questioning the president's dedication to the Gulf region. RNC Chairman Michael Steele has called on Mr. Obama to stop playing golf until the BP oil spill crisis has been fixed.
Fox News' April Girouard contributed to this report.