BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - We need our beach to re-open ASAP. Harrison County hotel operators delivered that message Thursday to the county's sand beach director, saying the beach is critical to successful tourism.
Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis may have felt he was on the hot seat during the meeting. Tourism leaders are looking for ways to get the beach open more quickly and expedite future storm clean-ups.
"We can't afford to throw away a month," said Linda Hornsby, with the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association. "While beach clean-up is going on, we're losing business,"
Hotel operators sent a clear message: The longer the "beach closed" signs remain posted, the more potential business we're losing.
"Just to put it in perspective for us at the Four Points, we lost over 70 percent of our occupancy, not just for that weekend, but going forward. Thank God for the clean-up crews and other things that go with the hurricane, or we would have nothing on our books," said Fallon McClain with the Four Points Hotel in Biloxi.
"That's it for us. We are the only hotel on the beach and we've lost so much business. Because people are coming to our particular hotel because they are going to the beach," said Sherry Queen with South Beach Hotel.
Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis explained the clean-up process and said his crews are working 10 hours a day, six days a week. Still, he understands pleasing everyone is near impossible.
"We have four different crews out working. It's tough to do, everybody. Everybody wants their property in front of their place done right now," he told the group.
Along with hundreds of tons of marsh grass and assorted debris, Hurricane Isaac also churned up some special challenges.
"Because we had to wait for DEQ and BP to do their assessment first. And then we had the issue with the dead nutria. So, we had to take care of that before we could start with debris," Loftis explained.
"We're doing the best we can right now. But I think we're all saying the same thing. We need a better plan. Reassess and see what resources we have for the next event to do better," said Ken Glavine with Four Points Hotel.
"We were down there two days after the storm, doing work. So I don't know how much quicker anyone could have done it," said Director Loftis.
He said the section of beach between Rodenberg Avenue and Debuys Road in Biloxi could be re-opened by this weekend. And Loftis said the entire 26 miles of sand beach will be cleaned and re-opened in time for Cruisin' the Coast in early October.