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Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

GULFPORT, MS - While the finishing touches of Super Bowl XLVII are being put on New Orleans, the welcome mat is being laid out along the beaches of southwest Mississippi.

'It's a fantastic opportunity for everyone,'said Beth Carrier of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitor's Bureau. It's that old saying, a rising tide lifts all ships and boats and we're all in the same water.'

Hotels and restaurants have their eyes on overflow fans.

Trent Dang with Hollywood Casino-Bay St. Louis said, 'New Orleans is a great feeder market of ours. We get a good portion of our business out of there so obviously whenever we heard Super Bowl was coming, we were all very excited.'

But tourism officials have been working since the game location was announced to draw business on their own, simply to show off what Mississippi has to offer. The effort includes free bus rides to New Orleans for the game and experience if you book two nights on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It's boosted occupancy rates significantly.

Linda Hornsby with the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association said, 'Normally, this time of year, overall on the coast, we're in the 40s. This is just our slow season. I do expect by Saturday to be in the 70s just based on the response I'm hearing.'

The invitation from the Mississippi Gulf Coast also extends to New Orleanians who just want to get away from all the Super Bowl hoopla.

'It's just win-win for everybody,' said Hornsby.

And hopes are to turn Super Bowl fanatics into long-term vacation fans.

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