BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Ever since Katrina, coast motel occupancy rates have been falling. But a half million dollar advertising blitz helped turn things around. For coast motels and hotels, it meant more people coming here, ready to stay and play for a few days. And it helped to save the summer for the embattled tourism industry.
The 30 second ad ran in six markets earlier this year. As a result, hotel occupancy rates increased seven percent on the coast in July and August. This, at a time when occupancy rates across the country were tumbling.
Richard Forrester is in charge of Harrison County tourism, and called the campaign a great success.
"Considering the economy and considering the double digit declines across the nation and throughout the state of Mississippi, the fact that we had two months in a row of increased occupancy down here is very rewarding," Forrester said.
Officials are hoping future campaigns will add the word "no vacancy" to motel marquees.
Reed Guice worked with others to create the commercial.
"We need to do that because there's a lot of fish out there. It's time to do some fishing," Guice said.
But there was nothing fishy about the results of the campaign. Coast motel owners were pleased, because more people were showing up at the front desks, ready to check in.
Linda Hornsby with the Hotel-Motel Association repeated what property owners were telling her.
"They're happy with anything that brings in business, particularly at a time when other areas are suffering declines," Hornsby said.
But according to Forrester, more money is needed to buy even more air time.
"If we're going to continue to be more competitive in an increasingly even more competitive marketplace, we are going to have to do more advertising. And that means were going to have to have more revenue." Forrester said.
If that happens, motel and hotel owners on the coast are hoping it will help heal the tourism scars left behind by Katrina.