Gulf Islands Waterpark talks strategy of luring visitors during sour economy

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In a time where many people have fewer dollars to spend, a major Mississippi coast tourist attraction plans to lure visitors in by giving them more for their money. Gulf Islands Water park opened this weekend.

Sheryl Galland and her family came from Slidell to spend their Sunday in Gulfport at the water park. She said the paying $79 to $89 each for season passes is too good a deal to pass up.

"You can't beat it," said Galland. "You come four times, you've got your money out of it."

Gulf Islands Waterpark officials say this season the park is more than just a place to splash around. The calendar is loaded with a carnival, shows, musical performances, appearances by cartoon characters and more.

Vice-President of Operations Glenn Haggard said, "We wanted to add more value for our season pass holders."

"Instead of marketing just the park, we will be targeted towards the events themselves. So when we have an event, the marketing will proceed and follow that event."

Park officials say they realize many people now have less to spend on entertainment.

"Obviously we have to be aware of the economy and the impact that it's had on everyone. That's why I feel the season pass is a great value. I'm sure the economy has limited travel plans and the discretionary dollars that each family has," Haggard said.

Officials say they've continued to market the park as a regional destination where coast residents, as well as people from New Orleans, Mobile and Hattiesburg can come, relax and not spend a fortune.

"As opposed to hoarding your money for the entire summer and having one destination vacation, you can come throughout the whole year," said Haggard. "It's only an hour's drive. Get up in the morning. Drive on over. Have a great day at the waterpark and drive back home or stay over for the weekend."

Gulf Islands Waterpark officials say many of the special events scheduled are tied to fundraising for local non-profits. The park is also developing partnerships with businesses to help promote the park.

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