Coast hotels still have vacancies for New Year's Eve

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - There's good news for visitors thinking about ringing in 2010 in South Mississippi. Plenty of hotel rooms are still available. According to the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, bookings for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are doing pretty well. But few hotels, especially non-casino hotels, are sold out.

Over the years, the coast has had big advantages in luring New Year's hotel business. There are the tourists looking for lavish casino celebrations and the spill over of college football fans from the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

As James Andrews checked into his D'Iberville hotel Wednesday, he was already predicting a Sugar Bowl victory for his Cincinnati Bearcats.

"Because we're going to put a hurt on the Florida Gators," Andrews said.

However, Andrews shouldn't expect to see many Florida or Cincinnati fans in the hotel lobby. Wingate Hotel officials said they are oversold for New Year's Eve and Day, but not with college football fans. Most room are booked by people in town to ring in 2010.

Hotel Sales Director Fallon McClain said, "To be honest with you, it's the casinos. Having the casinos in the area over-selling pushes business our way. We also do some campaigns advertising things like that in the different magazines."

The Residence Inn Marriott in Gulfport usually gets a Sugar Bowl business boost.

"We're not seeing too much of that at all. Usually with Sugar Bowl we get a lot of overflow," said General Manager Rosie Lowe.

Lowe said with reservations down for leisure travelers, the hotel began marketing more to business clients. She said because of that, the hotel is expected to be full this Thursday and Friday.

"Especially with an extended stay hotel like ours. We've got the full kitchen. It's basically like an apartment. So we have to look for a different type of clientele," Lowe said. "And so that's what's given us that little bit of a base that's kept us steady through the slow period in December."

"We're definitely looking forward to 2010," McClain said. "We did feel the effects of the recession in 2009, but overall it wasn't as bad as it was predicted to be. It really wasn't."

One reason our area may not be getting as many bookings from the Sugar Bowl is that hotels in downtown New Orleans have not sold out. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau officials said on Wednesday that bookings are in the 90th percentile for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

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