Holiday tourism 'surprisingly strong' despite oil threat - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Holiday tourism 'surprisingly strong' despite oil threat

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Despite scattered showers Monday and scattered oil over the weekend, it was a surprisingly strong Fourth of July holiday for the coast tourism industry. Many hotels were either sold out or close to it over the long weekend.

Monday's rainfall made for a soggy ending to the three day weekend.  But Saturday and Sunday were ideal for outdoor activities. And despite the oil disaster, plenty of tourists spent their holiday on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

We found the Harris Family from Sandusky, Ohio on the beach near the Biloxi lighthouse. A family reunion brought these visitors to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They turned that into a getaway weekend.

"We came to the beach for the fireworks last night. It was major people down here.  We went to a family reunion. We went to Gulf Islands water park," said Mrs. Harris.

Even though clean-up workers outnumbered the tourists on the beach this holiday Monday, visitors still enjoyed their extended weekend.

"This is my first time. And I love the atmosphere. It's awesome. People are friendly and just made us feel welcome," said Alonso Harris.

"We were packed.  Full house," said hotel clerk Jamie Yates.

The Super 8 on the beach in Biloxi was among several hotel-motel properties enjoying a successful Fourth of July weekend.

"They were coming down for the beach and the fireworks. A few to the casinos, but mainly the beach," said Yates, when asked about where the tourists were headed.

Late Monday morning, beach vendor Raliegh Carter was hoping for business to pick up. The empty beach chairs and idle jet skis were a big difference from the booming business he enjoyed Saturday and Sunday.

"It's been great. Wonderful," said Carter, who's been a beach vendor for 29 years.

He was quite pleased with the weekend business.

"Very, very much so. And surprised. Surprisingly pleased."

Some in the tourism industry say perception is still a problem. They say certain reports on the national news may lead folks to believe the entire coast is covered with oil.

"Just seems like they're making the oil spill a little worse on us than it really is. It looks a lot worse than it is, on the news. But it's not that bad here," said Yates.

"You see something on TV. It's nothing like you see on TV when you're actually there," said Harris.

Again, hotel and motel managers called it a "surprisingly strong" holiday weekend. The rain put somewhat of a damper on Monday's beach activity, but there were plenty of tourists in town spending money at restaurants, casinos and shopping centers.

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