JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's coastal business owners are looking to Memorial Day weekend to get the summer tourism season off to a strong start.
Louis Skrmetta (SKER'-mett-uh), whose family owns Ship Island Excursions, said that if weather cooperates, this year could bring 10 percent more customers to his business, which ferries beachgoers between Gulfport and West Ship Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Tourism has never returned to levels that were hit before 2005's Hurricane Katrina, in part because some destroyed hotel rooms never returned. For example, the iconic Sharkheads souvenir store in Biloxi is only now completing rebuilding from the hurricane, with owners hoping to open in June.
J.J. Pierotich (PAYR'-oh-tich) whose family owns Sharkheads, says business has been good this spring at sister store Souvenir City, stoking his optimism.