Florida Live tweetmap (courtesy Visit Florida)As a former Florida resident for a few years, and a big fan of not only the unique attractions of the interior but also the gorgeous Gulf side beaches, I’m taking a great interest in the impact of the BP oil spill disaster.

Nothing significant has happened quite yet to Florida (unlike coastal Louisiana) but even the threat of tar balls has knocked the sugar-sand Panhandle beaches off of Dr. Beach’s annual best beaches list.

Since there are already signs of a tourism drop-off….the best time to snag amazing deals, you travelers, even though it feels vulture-like….and President Obama is urging travel to the Gulf Coast beaches, the crisis communications response has begun.

The Visit Florida tourism organization (a pretty effective machine even without hurricanes and other disasters!) is harnessing the power of webcams, photos and live Twitter reports from humans on a new website page; it’s called Florida Live.

Rather than sticking their heads in the sand about tourists avoiding the coast for fear of oil spill problems, they’re trying to gather eyewitness reports (particularly from beach areas) and make them easily searchable and accessible, so that people can see coastal destinations and make their own travel decisions.

In addition to graphics, there is a link to the Deepwater Horizon response team at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, plus links to specific tourism organizations like CVBs (Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus) across all of the regions in the state.

Visitors want to see for themselves. Florida is trying to make it easy for them.

Travelers, go if you can, but use the tools available to check the situation first. You can also follow @VisitFlorida on Twitter.