Businesses hopeful despite oil's threat to tourism - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Businesses hopeful despite oil's threat to tourism

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mondays are typically slower days at the Blowfly Inn in Gulfport.  But, these days restaurants across the board are seeing fewer customers coming through their doors.

"Seafood restaurants are down about 30% and non seafood restaurants are down about 15%," says Scott Weinberg, owner of the Blowfly Inn Restaurant in Gulfport.

Weinberg says with summer here and the oil crisis as a backdrop, he's starting to see a push, on a regional level, to support coast businesses.  That he says, is good news.

"I've got a group coming down July 10th bringing 45 people in for lunch. They just want to come down to support the coast. I think they're going to go shopping afterward," says Weinberg.

An upswing in calls from the central and northern parts of the state and the region is encouraging  to Weinberg. 

He sat next to President Obama during his visit to the Ken Combs Pier for a seafood luncheon.  It was there that Weinberg shared some of his concerns about his industry in light of the oil spill.  He says that visit also produced some positive results.

"After the meeting he was very supportive of getting the message out that our coast is open, our waters are open and our seafood is safe. He said it multiple times. The calls to our tourism commission and the golf association increased for the next few days...so he has tremendous power to help us out on a national level," says Weinberg.

As for hotels, Linda Hornsby, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association says occupancy is hovering around 70%.

It's a bit low, especially with the 4th of July weekend around the corner.

But, she says incentives like the gas card program are offering businesses a boost during the slowdown.

Hornsby says some of the smaller beach front motels have seen a pick up in bookings this week. Scrapin' the Coast is scheduled for this coming weekend.

The good news in all of this according to Weinberg is there's one group of customers on which he can always rely.

 "We're very lucky to have our local support....without our locals we'd be out of business."

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