Florida Residents Turn Tourists In Biloxi - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/03/04

Florida Residents Turn Tourists In Biloxi

You'll see plenty of Florida tags on Highway 90 this weekend. Many of those people who evacuated the sunshine state, will spend Labor Day weekend in Biloxi.

Those who fled the hurricane are helping boost coast tourism this holiday.

"We take a historic tour of Biloxi," said August Taconi, as he prepared to roll out with his Biloxi Tour Train.

Bruce Crabb didn't plan on riding the train. But the Palm Bay, Florida resident decided to make the most of his unexpected evacuation.

"I just kept going west. I'm going to stay a couple days. I'm at the state park and I'll make a little mini vacation out of it.  Might as well enjoy myself," said Crabb.

He's not alone. A mom and daughter from Port St. Lucie also escaped to South Mississippi. Hurricane Frances forced them to play the role of tourists this weekend.

"We didn't really flee. We got out ahead of everybody else. We hit traffic in Ocala. That should have taken us 45 minutes to get to Gainesville. It took over three hours," said Pat Hartmann.

A spokesman for Boomtown Casino says he welcomes the influx of Florida visitors who are fleeing the hurricane. But he's also somewhat concerned about possibly losing some Labor Day business with people who may be wary of coming to coastal Mississippi while a storm is threatening.

"Last track I saw had it going up through Florida between Georgia and Alabama. So, if that happens, we've already had some bus cancellations. But not as many as I expected," said Boomtown's Chett Harrison.

The crowds from storm weary Florida may help save the holiday weekend, as they wait out the weather in Biloxi.

The president of the Gulf Coast Hotel-Motel Association said there are very few vacancies this Labor Day weekend. Linda Hornsby says between holiday tourists and Florida evacuees, the hotel occupancy rate is around 95 percent this weekend.

By Steve Phillips

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