Holiday weekend crowds signify tourism rebound for Miss. gulf coast

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 30, 2011 at 7:39 AM

Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
 
BILOXI, Miss. ― Folks enjoying themselves on the beach in Biloxi on Sunday said the setting was what they were hoping for.
 
"Very big crowd, everybody having fun, everybody enjoying themselves," said Tristan Durham, from Waggaman.
 
It’s a Memorial Day Weekend scene that hardly resembles the one some saw here during the same weekend, one year ago.
 
"There was hardly anybody out here. You could see oil up on the beach and the stuff," said Ginger Smith, from Shreveport.
 
A quick scan of the beach now, and those days seem long gone.
 
Biloxi -- like the many other beach communities along the coast -- is on the rebound, after the BP oil spill put a huge dent in the summer of 2010.
 
"The restaurant taxes are up,” said Janice Jones with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The tourism taxes are up. All of the indicators are very positive."
 
Jones said hotel occupancy rates this weekend are pushing toward 80 percent. It's a major step forward, but officials are still reaching for bigger goals.
 
"We'd like to get back to, you know, basically pre-Katrina levels, where all of our holidays are booked solid," Jones said.
 
Like Louisiana, Mississippi is tapping into millions in tourism marketing dollars, paid for by BP, in hopes of catching the attention of more potential visitors.
 
The message successfully reached Faith Nasabi, an Atlanta resident who decided to visit after seeing an advertisement.
 
“They were talking about it's cleaned up and everything and we just wanted to come and see," she said.
 
For Biloxi restaurants like Hog Heaven Barbeque & Blues, this weekend is a big one.
 
"It's awesome to get a good start, a good start to the summertime, to get that first push for the beginning of summer,” General Manager Chad Misko said. “We definitely look forward to that."
 
As peak season for 2011 arrives, locals and tourists say so far, so good.
 
"Everything seems to be full go. I see a lot of boat traffic coming in and out of the channel also. So, I think crew boats are going in and out also, so, I think everything's starting to come back to normal around here," said Picayune, MS resident Bill Helgeson.
 

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