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Spring Break and Warm Weather Bring Optimism As Gulf Coast Tourism Struggles to Recover From Oil Spi

By Rhonda Miller | Published 16 Mar 2011 05:56pm | comments
Donna McSween plays Frisbee on the beach in Biloxi. She and her husband drove seven hours from Shreveport, Louisiana to spend five days relaxing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In the first tourist season after the BP oil spill, officials are hoping the Gulf Coast will bounce
back from the millions of tourism dollars lost as a result of the disaster. MPB's Rhonda Miller reports that with Spring break and warm weather, there are signs this might be a good year on the Mississippi coast.

The sky is blue, the sun is warm, and people are strolling along a stretch of beach in Biloxi. Donna McSween is playing Frisbee with her husband.

"We love the gulf of Mississippi," McSween says. "We came here for the first time before Katrina. We’ve been here at least four or five times since. You can drive from one end of Mississippi to the other and see the Gulf the whole time."

The McSweens drove seven hours from their home near Shreveport, Louisiana and are staying in a Biloxi hotel for five days.

Tourism officials are hoping for more visitors like this.

Nineteen million visitors came to the state in 2009, according the Tourism Division of the Mississippi Development Authority. And even during the economic troubles of that year, tourism brought 357 million dollars into the state’s general fund.

Then there was oil spill in April 2010.

Bridgette Varone is Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association.

"We’ve already seen more bookings in hotel rooms, people are starting to spend more money on dining out," Varone says. "Everyone is very optimistic, hopefully it’s going to be a great year.

Varone says with all the unforeseen events of the past few years, only time will tell if the 2011 tourist season turns out to be a good one. 

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Donna McSween plays Frisbee on the beach in Biloxi. She and her husband drove seven hours from Shreveport, Louisiana to spend five days relaxing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


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