Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
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The beach umbrellas are opening in Biloxi as tourists arrive for the holiday weekend, and hotels are saying they're booked.

'It's looking really good,' smiled Linda Hornsby, Executive Director of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association. 'It's the best it's looked in several years.'

'Every time we have free time, we always drive through Mississippi because we really like it,' said Sable Williams.

Sable Williams and Garrett Lowe from Mobile could have gone to the beaches in Gulf Shores, but they chose Biloxi instead.

'How much are you guys looking forward to being on that sand? Happy, excited,' said Garrett.

'This beach looks really nice,' said Sable. 'It's got tables sitting out, and you can rent jet skis, and I think somewhere down there's snow cones that you can buy.'

Gulf Coast tourism has struggled through a trifecta of disasters since Katrina choked it off nine years ago.

'After Katrina, then we suffered just as all did with the economy, that was 2009, late 2008 and 2009, then 2010 we were just recovering from that,' said Linda.

The 17,000 hotel rooms before Katrina have shrunk to 13,000 now, but four years after the oil spill, hotels are expecting a good summer.

'I see us finally coming back from Katrina,' said Linda.

Linda Hornsby concludes that barring future disasters, man made or natural, over the next five years, the Gulf Coast tourism economy could take off, especially if some of the remaining scars from Katrina disappear.

'I think we're going to start seeing a whole lot more beach development, and that's what we need, because that's the face of tourism,' Linda explained. 'No matter where people go when they come here or why they come here, the beachfront is the face of tourism, and we need it more developed, and we're starting to see that already.' Hornsby said some hotels expect summer reservations to be as much as thirty percent higher this year than last.

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