Hotels Could Capitalize On Conquest

From the balcony of the Days Inn, you can see the Port of Gulfport. So hotel clerk Michael Meier had a perfect view of Conquest's inaugural arrival. He described its first foray into Gulfport as a "nice, slow cruise right into port. Beautiful view from here."

The west Gulfport Days Inn is one of the gulf coast hotels that could clean up if some of Conquest's 3,000 plus passengers are looking for a place to stay before or after the cruise. Aisa Templeton runs the west Gulfport property. "This is a chance to impress people that have never been to Gulfport, Mississippi before," she said, "who hopefully will come back for an extended trip."

Templeton was at a meeting of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association. Conquest was talked about during the luncheon.

Skip Ledbetter told delegates the hotels had to do whatever they could to make the ship, its passengers and its crew feel as welcome as possible. "As we see it now in the hotel community," Ledbetter said, "this is the beginning of something we hope that will become a very great opportunity."

Notice Ledbetter said, "the beginning." The general feeling of hotel executives is that their best chance to capitalize on Conquest's temporary deal with the Port of Gulfport is if the Carnival ship -- or one like it -- becomes a permanent part of the coast's tourism industry.

"Certainly at that point," said Ledbetter, "the opportunities are endless for how well and how much the gulf coast hotel association and its members can benefit from this tremendous new opportunity."

If Conquest passengers do stay at a coast hotel, it will be because of word of mouth. At Tuesday's Harrison County tourism meeting, commissioners decided not to spend any additional money to advertise the fact that the cruise ship was docking in South Mississippi.