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Tourism Businesses Hope For Good Summer

By Evelina Burnett | Published 27 May 2013 10:03pm | comments
The Ship Island Excursions ferry at the Gulfport harbor (Evelina Burnett/MPB News)

The Memorial Day weekend brought a welcome boost for tourism on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tourism officials and businesses are hopeful this momentum will continue all summer long.

Tourists were boarding the Ship Island Excursions ferry at the Gulfport harbor this Memorial Day weekend, heading out for a day on the island. It's a welcome sound to Captain Louis Skrmetta. He says the Sunday before Memorial Day is typically his busiest day of the year -- and this is the best he's seen since Hurricane Katrina. On Saturday and Sunday, Ship Island Excursions carried 2,400 people to Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts, he said.

"The weather was gorgeous, school is out, and we think people are coming back to the Gulf Coast," he said. 

 Skrmetta says rainy weather kept tourists away this spring, but he's hopeful for good weather -- and big crowds -- this summer. James Willis drove over from New Orleans with his family to spend the day on Ship Island at the spur of the moment. His family decided the day before to come over to Biloxi for the day .

Willis, like many visitors, isn't staying the night. But the hotel industry is also hoping for a strong summer. The Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association says that hotel occupancy on the Gulf Coast fell almost 12% in April. But Kenny Glavan, general manager of the Four Points by Sheraton in Biloxi, says that shouldn't be used as a predictor for this summer.

"As far as April, swooning a little bit, I think we all expected it because of the government cutbacks and the economy and what was happening. That's not surprising," he says. "But I think once we hit our stride in the summer, there's enough demand that I think all hotels will have a successful summer."

Glavan says his hotel was sold out on both Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and he expects to be sold out on weekends through Labor Day. 


The Ship Island Excursions ferry at the Gulfport harbor (Evelina Burnett/MPB News)



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