Rising Gas Prices A Moderate Concern For Summer Tourist Season

Will the rising price of gas put the brakes on the coast's summer tourist season?

Those people who work in the industry are concerned, but not in a panic just yet.

Harrison County's tourism director calls gas prices a "moderate concern" heading into the normally busy summer season. But those in the tourist trade are confident they'll not only survive, but thrive this summer, despite those high prices at the pump.

The end of May brings plenty of local school groups to Marine Life. Kids on end of the school year field trips enjoy getting a close up look at the dolphins.

Prices at the gas pump, could mean lots of local visitors to this attraction during the summer.

"I think we're looking for a good summer. Because of the gas prices people are going to stay closer to home. And we are hoping that the locals will come and visit Marine Life," said Dr. Moby Solangi, the director of Marine Life.

Solangi says a ten hour drive to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom could be replaced by a more affordable day trip to Gulfport.

"I think it will certainly have an impact on tourism. I think people will not go long distances. And local attractions will benefit," he said.

The coast's casino resorts rely heavily on a "drive in" market. But the general manager of the Palace Hotel and Casino doesn't believe prices at the pump will keep visitors at home.

"I think the summer is going to be great no matter what. It just makes the row a little tougher to hoe. And people are going to be a little more careful how they spend their money. So, this is a chance for people to offer a higher value," said Palace Casino Resort manager, Keith Crosby.

The coast's high value may balance the concerns about the price of gas. A new tourism study rates the Mississippi Gulf Coast "most affordable" in a survey of 100 getaway cities.

Steve Richer is Harrison County's tourism director.

"For those that are in the drivable range, they may choose to drive here because of the savings at our accommodations, attractions, etc. will offset the cost increase in gas," said Richer.