Community leaders celebrate hotel opening in Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Community leaders celebrate hotel opening in Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS  (WLOX) - Despite the oil spill's negative impact on coast tourism, many community leaders are upbeat about the tourism industry's long term recovery.

That optimism was evident at Tuesday's ribbon cutting for a new hotel in Gulfport. Comfort Suites opened its new hotel on busy Highway 49 just south of Airport Road.

The general manager said even though the oil spill's overall effect on tourism may be severe, he's extremely confident about the success of this new property and the long term health of the tourism industry.

The new Comfort Suites in Gulfport officially opened two months ago, before the oil spill began affecting tourism.

"We're very much sold on the gulf coast and the prospects for the future here," said General Manager Marion "Butch" Rule.

The immediate prospects for tourism on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are tainted by national coverage of the oil spill's impact.  Hotel cancellation rates are running at 50 percent or more right now.

"It could be very severe. But long term, we will survive. We know that," said Rule.

Gulfport's mayor said the new hotel is a welcome investment in a city that's positioned for a bright future.

As for the tourism industry overcoming negative perceptions about the oil, most believe advertising is the primary answer.

"It's just a matter of making sure that people realize that we have not had any oil on our beaches. And they're here and ready for people to swim and fish and have a good time. So, come on down," said Mayor George Schloegel.

"This is our Jacuzzi room.  It's one of our special rooms; we have six Jacuzzi rooms," said Gail Crochet, as she gave visitors a tour of the new hotel facilities.

Community leaders toured the new Comfort Suites and celebrated the arrival of the new development.

Investors also plan to build another new hotel on adjoining property. Along with accommodating the traditional beach going tourists, the new hotel will also draw a significant portion of business from the nearby Gulfport sportsplex.

"It's a major attraction for this area. We're working very closely with that. The soccer teams, the softball teams, baseball. These are year round functions," said Rule, "We're happy to be here and looking forward to growing with the community."

The new Comfort Suites property features 87 suites.  And although tourism is an important part of its business, the new hotel will also cater to commercial and business travelers.

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