HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Imagine going to a town you never been before and someone hands you $50 to spend on anything you'd like. That's exactly what's happening to hundreds of tourists rolling into Hancock County on tour buses.
"Well, it's almost to good to be true," said tourist Sandra Linder.
Linder is from Baton Rouge; she's just one of more than 450 people from all over the nation who traveled to town on tour buses to receive Magnolia money to spend Tuesday.
Hancock County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Carriere said, "It's a huge economic boom. And thanks to the BP tourism grant, we're able to introduce this area to people who have never been here before."
The tourism bureau received a $995,000 grant from BP to help bring tourists back to town.
The tourism bureau turned some of that cash into Magnolia Money which began being circulated September first and can be spent through November first.
For shop owners and restaurant owners, Magnolia money has been a God send.
Shop owner Pam Collins said, "It's been a windfall! It's been a boost that we sorely needed because as you know July and August were very bad for the small businesses with the spill. This is truly making up for it."
"When the oil spill happened, we dropped off 50 or more percent of our business dropped off. Not that this is fully recovered, but it's really given us a nice boost," said Cyndi Mirambell, shop owner.
The hope is the visitors will enjoy themselves while in town and even after the Magnolia Money is gone, return to spend more of their tourism dollars in the area.
Linder said, "I definitely would like to come back to this area."
And the Tourism Bureau reported late Tuesday afternoon, that one of the tour buses from Arkansas has booked two more tours in April of next year.