Tourism Leaders Cautiously Optimistic as Gulf Coast Season Moves Into High GearBy Rhonda Miller | Published 27 May 2011 04:28pm |
Hotels and charter boats on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are busy booking vacationers, as Memorial Day kicks the tourist season into high gear. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports it’s a welcome change from last year, when most of the business came from oil spill workers.
The shrimp tour boat pulls in at the Biloxi harbor and a cheerful crowd piles onto the dock. Captain and boat owner Brandy Moore likes the way this tourist is going.
"Very well. It was a very big surprise. With last year’s disaster, we thought tourism was going to slack off, but it has been booming," Moore said. "It started the first of March and it has not stopped. It has been wonderful, wonderful, wonderful for us."
Her Biloxi Cruise Company runs four tours a day, and soon she’ll add more sunset cruises. Then she’ll be up to six trips a day – the same as before the oil spill.
" What we did is, when BP came through, when we got our BP money, we put it back out there in advertising," Moore said. "We put $58,000 in advertising back out there and I think it’s working for us, it’s paying off."
It’s paying off in tourists like Mark Baucan and his family from Pittsburgh. It’s their first visit to the Gulf Coast, and besides the shrimping tour, Baucan says they’ve got a full week.
"Love it, love everything. We’ve been fishing. We’ve been running go-karts. We went the casino, we hit first time at the casino," Baucan said.
In addition to families, Linda Hornsby of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association says sports teams and other groups are an economic boost.
"A lot of it is non-traditional tourists, so they have filled a lot of the non-casino hotels," Hornsby said.
Fifteen million dollars from BP has been used for marketing campaigns to convince tourists the beaches are clean and the seafood is safe. Now, it’s a matter of waiting to see if the tourists show up this season.
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