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5 tourist spots in turmoil

They were once hot vacation spots that are now global hotpsots. But don't let the headlines fool you - you can still visit them and be safe.

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The situation: A gigantic oil plume is leaking from BP's underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico and fouling everything in its path, including the beaches along Florida's Panhandle, where tar balls have washed ashore. The leak has spread since an oil rig explosion on April 20.

Financial hit: Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness, estimates the state could lose anywhere from $2.2 billion to $10.9 billion in tourism spending, causing the loss of 39,000 to 195,000 jobs.

The response: Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, has live Web cams positioned along beaches and Twitter feeds from thousands of residents providing updates on the oil spill impact. Many hotels are also bending cancellation policies. Lonely Planet editor Robert Reid suggests that tourists seek out hotels allowing them to cancel without penalty if oil washes ashore.

The reality: Chris Thompson, chief executive of Visit Florida, notes that Florida has 825 miles of beaches and "a certain small portion of that is being affected at the extreme western portion of the Panhandle." So there's still plenty of clean beach to go around.

NEXT: Jamaica
Last updated June 18 2010: 12:14 PM ET
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