Tourism in Mississippi is now seeing the kind of success it hasn't seen since before Hurricane Katrina hit the state in 2005. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, more visitors and more tourism money are coming in.
As tourism areas in Mississippi gear up for the summer season, there's good news coming from "Visit Mississippi", the state tourism office. It's director, Craig Ray, says 23 million visitors brought in $6.3 billion to the state last year. That's just a shade under how the state's tourism industry performed pre-Katrina.
"We've really been making up a lot of ground. The coast has been rebuilt. A lot of new properties. A lot of reinvestment by the casinos into their properties. Better bridges, better roads. Cleaner beaches. On the rebuild, it's come back stronger."
Bill Sarat is the Executive Director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says the city, known as "The Key to the South", is busier than ever. He says there's been an influx in visitors from riverboats over the past few years. There are 100 dockings booked in 2017.
"Our historic district downtown is really booming. The shops are full. A lot of renovations going on. So, Vicksburg has never been as busy as we seem to be today."
Ray says out of the $6.3 billion spent on tourism, nearly $5 billion of it came from out of state. Tourism is the fourth largest industry in Mississippi, employing 86,000 people.