Fewer snowbirds flocking to MS Gulf Coast

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Snowbirds tend to flock to the coast during the winter months. However, tourism leaders said not as many of our neighbors to the north are coming to South Mississippi as they have in the past.

Alice Coffman and her friends have spent a lot of time getting to know Mississippi.  They've visited in casinos in Vicksburg, Tunica and the Gulf Coast.

"The people are warm and friendly," said Coffman. "If you go to the casinos which we are going, they just want to help you. They're glad to see you, and they give you a feeling like we're welcome."

Officials at the Mississippi Welcome Center in Jackson County said the bad publicity from the oil spill hurt summer tourism on the Gulf Coast. With fewer snowbirds coming into the area, they said that slump is carrying over into the colder months.

"We're starting to see our winter tourist coming in now, but we're still quite a bit slower than we were last year," said Linda Woodworth, travel counselor. "This is sort of a slow time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas because people are traveling for Thanksgiving and gearing up for their Christmas traveling. But it's even slow for that down time. "

There is good news. Officials said looking at visitors at Mississippi's 12 welcome centers, tourism numbers statewide are almost at pre-Hurricane Katrina levels.

Tonya Neely is the Bureau Manager for Mississippi Welcome Centers.

"For about every one dollar spent in tourism there was a seven dollar return. So those tax dollars matter," said Neely. "It matters on the city level. It matters on the county level. It matters on the state level. So when people come to these welcome centers and we make reservations for them or we give them information on a place they can eat. When they go and do those things, that revenue stays in our state. "

Tourists said they're glad to do their part in helping our economy.

Coffman said, "I just love Mississippi. I always have."

The Mississippi Welcome Center in Jackson County held a holiday open house this weekend. Workers said it's their way to show the centers are here to serve the local community as well as tourists.

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