Tourists head back to South Mississippi

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - South Mississippi has always been marketed as a tourist destination and many businesses rely on the visitors, but with last year's oil spill, it has been tough to stay afloat.

Ken Skrmetta and his family who own Ship Island Excursions experienced the difficulties first hand.

Skrmetta said, "Well obviously last year was a huge disappointment for us, our numbers were 75 percent down, due to the oil spill. But this year the numbers are looking up, so we are hopeful that this continues throughout the summer."

Skrmetta said his business coasts on the area's natural amenities.

"Seclusion that attracts people to the island especially from the cities and surrounding area, I think that's the calling card for us, the beauty of the island, the water and the beaches," Skrmetta said.

The water is also what keeps people coasting into Jet Blast, a business that rents out chairs and jet skis to beach goers.

Employee Jesse Tillery admits last year's oily perception was bad for their business also.

"Last season was really slow, like we didn't have hardly any rides. We went weeks without seeing anybody," Tillery said. "This season is a lot better. We are slowly progressing to get better and better throughout the days."

One of the owners of South Coast Paddling Company, Cynthia Ramseur, also suffered the repercussions of the oil spill.

Ramseur said, "It was pretty devastating; we didn't have any business. I mean no one called; no one came in."

With time, Ramseur said things have paddled around, "June has really been a great, it's been a great month, so we are looking forward to our business growing."

Skrmetta said, "Let's hope and pray hurricanes leave us alone. We've had enough troubles over the years between the oil spill and the hurricane, so we are just keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well. So far, so good."

This weekend businesses said they have seen visitors from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Illinois and even a couple from South America.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.