Mississippi coast tourism seems to be on the upswing. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, visitors flocked to the coast during the Fourth of July weekend.
Ship Island Excursions Ferry Captain Louis Skrmetta says the summer started out rainy but improving weather has helped business.
"We've had one of the better Fourth of July's we've had in a long time," he says. "All three days were perfect weather. Crowds were up, the numbers were way up. We were running at full capacity all weekend, Saturday and Sunday."
Renee Areng is executive director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. She hasn’t yet received numbers for the holiday weekend or for June, but says indicators for October through May are all positive.
"Harrison and Hancock counties are pacing 10% ahead of last year's overall revenues for hotels, and Jackson County is pacing 10% ahead of projections," she says. "Gaming revenues is up better than 5% as well. We're still gathering attraction numbers, but everybody seems to think this summer is going to be gangbusters."
Areng attributes the improvements to the three coast counties now marketing the region together. They've also been able to boost the amount of money available for marketing.
But, not everyone is reporting a great summer. Pat Pigott owns a beach rentals company in Biloxi. He’s had a tough summer, including a slow 4th of July. He thinks the economy may be partly to blame.
"A lot of our business comes from people who work in the oilfield, and a lot of people have lost their jobs because of the falling gas prices," he says.
Another possible factor: recent reports about water quality issues on parts of the gulf coast may be scaring away beach visitors everywhere.