Overall, tourism down, businesses doing okay

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - For Ship Island Excursions, it's been smooth sailing this summer season despite the rough waters many across the tourism industry have run into.

"We are very pleased. Our numbers are very good this summer. We've had weekends where we've carried over 1200 people, our limit in one day," said Captain Louis Skrmetta with Ship Island Excursions.

The company expects to see 40,000 visitors this year. That's about 10,000 more than last year. It's a far cry from the 18,000 visitors Ship Island Excursions saw the year after Hurricane Katrina.

Families like the Browns, who live within three hours of the area in Brandon, Mississippi, are helping to keep the business, which takes people to and from Ship Island, thriving.

"I think this is third time this summer we've come. We enjoy coming down here," Sheila Brown said.

"People are staying closer to home. They're looking to save their money and to use their travel time wisely," Skrmetta said.

At Gulf Islands Water Park, park officials have managed to keep numbers from taking a dive this summer season. The park beefed up its live entertainment and brought in more live characters for kids in hopes of keeping the customers coming.

"They've held about steady from last year," Gulf Islands General Manager Mark Moore said. "So overall, in an economy like this, in an uncertain situation, we're pretty pleased."

Like Ship Island Excursions, it's the locals and those who live within two to three hours of the attractions that have managed to keep Gulf Islands Water Park afloat.

"We live in Bay St. Louis, so to come over here, it's not too bad," Trevlyn Laneaux said. "At least it's somewhere to go that's considered local rather than having to go to Louisiana or Alabama."

Another common thread between the two, they offer something for the entire family to enjoy.

"You saw a lot of kids getting off the boat; that's about 50 percent of our business," Skrmetta said.

Gulf Islands will stay open through September while Ship Island Excursions will remain open through the end of October.

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