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Florida - Winds Blow Over the Sunshine State

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Florida is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, boasting a host of attractions for visitors of all ages. Last year 80 million people descended on the "Sunshine State", drawn from all over the world by the welcoming climate, world-class entertainment and first-rate tourist industry.

Yet in recent months Florida seems to have lost a little of its sheen and seen its friendly climes blown off course.

The devastating hurricanes that swept the Gulf Coast in September, caught the world's attention, as Katrina and Rita smashed into Louisiana and Texas. Yet Florida was already reeling from Hurricane Dennis and dealing with the aftermath of a powerful storm. The hurricane saw 1.4 million people told to leave their homes, with power lines, roofs and trees all falling victim to the blasts that swept through the Alabama coastline and Florida. The state was quickly declared a disaster zone in order to qualify for federal aid.

Worse still Florida has been held up as an example of the gun culture that blights the US in a series of adverts placed in British newspapers. With 1.5 million Brits visiting the state each year a gun control group has sought to hit the state where it hurts by dissuading Brits from spending their hard-earned cash in the region.

The move, the brainchild of the Brady Campaign to Control Gun Violence, warns tourists that they are putting their life in danger if they venture into the state because of the new gun control law approved by state governor and brother of the US president, Jeb Bush. The Brady Campaign carries some weight too – being derived from Ronald Regan's spokesman who was shot while touring with the president in an assassination attempt in 1981.

Changes to the wording of the law means that rather than reacting only when they were threatened inside their home –"deadly force" is now acceptable if they have grounds to believe that firing their gun will stop a crime or prevent serious injury.

As a result the adverts aim to raise awareness of the purported potential for danger.

"Thinking about a Florida vacation? Please ensure your family is safe. In Florida, avoid disputes. Use special caution in arguing with motorists on Florida roads," the advert runs.

Yet Florida is in truth relatively unscathed from these assaults. Hurricanes hit every year and the state is well-versed in dealing with them and also in rebuilding what needs fixing. Neither a negative advertising campaign nor a tropical storm is enough to deter visitors from attractions such as Disneyworld and the Kennedy Space Centre, as 1.4 million Britons will testify each year.

As for the danger inherent in a trip to the Sunshine State, whether from hurricanes or rogue bullets, the Association of British Travel Agents is unfazed and says tourist should be too.

A spokesman told the Scotsman: "We would offer the same advice about Florida as we would any other part of the United States. As far as we are concerned, nothing has changed."


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