Wish cards aimed to bring in winter tourists

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Temperatures cooling, beach vendors packing up, sun bathers donning long sleeves are all signs the peek tourism season is fading fast into the winter.

For the Edgewater Inn this usually marks the time when business slows down from the busy summer; however, business has only had one pace.

"Dead, really bad, I mean, it is so bad here that I have my employees cut down to two hours; just so they have a check," said Edgewater Inn Manager Trish Adamic.

The oil spill initially created vacancy issues at hotels up and down the coast. Yet now, tourism marketing experts say, because of BP and the tourism money it invested in South Mississippi, hotel occupancy is up more than 20%.

Those experts also think a wave of winter tourists will head this way, once vacationers learn about an opportunity to get a $100 wish card in exchange for two nights in a hotel.

"Hopefully it will encourage people to come down and do their Christmas shopping here. Let's remember. We have a 24 hour, seven days a week destination that many people find attractive," said Mississippi Gulf Coast Executive Director Richard Forester.

The BP tourism grant is offering all types of incentives to show tourists that the gulf coast has clean beaches, good seafood and activities waiting to be discovered. However, some worry that holiday plans will overrule any incentives BP can offer.

"It's a great program. Is it bringing in more people? Right now, I'd have to say no. You're right here at the holidays, and you're offering this program. A lot of people don't have the money to fork up for a hotel for two nights," said Adamic.

Despite the concerns, the tourism division feels businesses are entering the holiday season strong and will get stronger into the New Year.

Tourism officials are already calling the wish cards a success with many hotels reserving extra cards. The wish cards will be handed out through January. The 100 dollars can be used for shopping, restaurants, and other things.

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