BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There's good news for the coast tourism industry: Hotel owners believe 2012 could rival the summer of 2008. That was the last time bookings were strong, and coast tourism felt like it did in 2005, right before Hurricane Katrina slammed into South Mississippi.
Despite that, Linda Hornsby with the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association said they don't expect coast hotels to be sold out this July 4th holiday.
"We're making the best of it," Hornsby said. Having the Fourth of July on a Wednesday "does create some middle of the week activity," Hornsby noted. But, it doesn't do much for weekend hotel check-ins.
We asked Hornsby to compare the fourth to Memorial Day. She said the Saturday night before Memorial Day was as close to a sellout as we've seen since Katrina.
"I don't think we'll see that this weekend," she said.
Nevertheless, Hornsby remained optimistic the upcoming weekend would be a strong weekend for coast hoteliers.
The coast currently has about 13,000 hotel rooms. That's roughly 4,000 less than before Hurricane Katrina. According to Hornsby, the average daily rate (ADR) charged at those hotels is not where it was, or where it needs to be. As a result, the room tax revenue is down.
That can be detrimental for Harrison County Supervisors and for the Harrison County Tourism Commission. Supervisors get 2.75 percent of that room tax to pay off the convention center expansion. Hornsby said they still haven't paid any of the principal on that building project.
Tourism gets 2.25 percent of that room tax to cover its advertising costs.