The Mississippi coast tourism industry is hoping a big New Year’s weekend will spark a stronger year in 2015. MPB Gulf Coast reporter Evelina Burnett has more.
Tourism leaders are pushing the Mississippi Gulf coast as an overnight destination and transportation spot for those going to tomorrow’s Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
"We like to say, enjoy the sugar-white sands before you go to the Sugar Bowl," says Renee Areng, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. She says overall 2014 tourism numbers appear to be up.
“In 2013 we hosted 5.4 million visitors and they spent about $2 billion on the coast," Areng says. "And all of the indicators for 2014 have those numbers growing. Average daily rate is higher, casino revenues are higher. So we really think 2014 is going to prove to be a successful year of growth.”
Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association director Linda Hornsby says New Year’s Eve is looking great for hotels on the coast, especially at the casinos.
“We do expect the casinos to completely fill up if they haven’t already, and non-casino hotels are doing a brisk business because of that," she says.
Hornsby says coast hotel numbers in 2014 overall are basically flat, after several years of declines, but she’s hopeful for 2015.
“We’re getting indications that this year it’s going to inch up – it’s not going to soar but it’s going to be in the right direction," she says. "We’re hoping that’s right because it’s very much needed."
For the year through November, coast hotel occupancy is down slightly, but the average daily rate is up a bit. Revenue per available room, a key metric, is flat.