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Coast Tourism Hopes Strong Summer Numbers Continue

By Evelina Burnett | Published 08 Jul 2014 12:25pm | comments
Passengers line up to board the Ship Island Excursions ferry on Monday in Gulfport.

Businesses on the Mississippi coast tourism had a busy 4th of July weekend, but, as MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, there’s room for growth.

Passengers are welcomed as they board the Ship Island Excursions ferry at the Gulfport harbor. Rob Pate and his wife Chris of Indianapolis are visiting the Mississippi gulf coast for the first time.

Asked what they've been doing this week, he answers: "hanging out on the beach and eating seafood." He adds: "Love it. Definitely going to come back."

The Ship Island Excursions ferry averaged about 1,000 passengers a day this weekend, making it their best 4th of July since Hurricane Katrina.

Hotel numbers are improving too, says Linda Hornsby of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association. She says good weather and an array of activities and attractions helped make for an "excellent" weekend. She's encouraged about the rest of the season, which she thinks could be a big step towards coming back from Katrina and the BP oil spill.

"We're still down over last year, but the gap is lessening a little bit," she says. "It's gone from double-digit declines to now we're just under double-digit declines, so hopefully that will continue and we can finish this season and the year at least flat if not an increase."

Hornsby says the decline in occupancy could be for many reasons - one less major conference, for example, could cause a blip. That’s why she’s encouraged about the convention sales experiences of incoming Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, Renee Areng. 

Areng says she hopes to appeal to a wide array of potential visitors.

"The most obvious, of course, is gaming, but the estuaries, and the fishing and the offshore opportunities, and beautiful beaches, and birding, and weddings and group travel are all huge areas," she says, "and the latest research shows that the numbers in those areas are much lower, so I think some of those areas can definitely be increased."

Areng, who starts August 1, comes to the coast from Visit Baton Rouge.

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Passengers line up to board the Ship Island Excursions ferry on Monday in Gulfport.


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