Sugar Bowl hotel business not very sweet

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - In a matter of hours, Alabama and Oklahoma will play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in neighboring New Orleans.  Soon, buses will leave Harrison County casinos, and they'll take several Sugar Bowl fans to the game.  But, not as many fans as local hotel managers expected.

Many hotels in Hancock County were hoping to cash in on the extra visitors to the coast.  But as WLOX News found out that hasn't happened.

A lack of cars in the parking lots of most hotels in Hancock County says it all. The expected customers headed to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans didn't stop in South Mississippi.  "Unfortunately not," said Jamie Blanton.  She's the front desk clerk at the Diamondhead Inn and Suites. It's one of two hotels in Hancock County off I-10.

She says even with special room rates being offered, it wasn't enough to entice Sugar Bowl bound traffic to stop here.  "Anytime there is a large event we're always hoping to get a few guests a few extras," said Blanton.

She said part of the problem is hotels in and around New Orleans still have lots of vacancies.  "Normally we would expect people once they are full there in Slidell and the New Orleans area we usually get a few over here," Blanton said.

But so far, that overflow business hasn't come to her desk or to the one across the interstate.  "Slidell has so many hotels that they're not coming this way, they're just filling up Slidell," explained Brad Scott, the front desk clerk at the Econolodge in Diamondhead.  "Not saying later tonight we might get a few, but as far as the booking is concerned, we just don't have any."

So, where are the Sugar Bowl fans?  Scott says there are several factors to consider.  "They are looking to make the less decisions as possible. So if they stay in Louisiana they are only minutes from the game everything is taken care of the cost may not be an issue," said Scott.

Blanton echoed his words. "Normally at games, you have a little drinking and maybe the drive after a drink or two would be a little much," she guessed.

In the case of Oklahoma fans, there's always a chance the weather prevented them from making a trip to the gulf coast for the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl.  "People driving from Oklahoma they're being hit with a winter storm," noted Scott.

The Hancock County hotel managers are grateful for the new year's business their hotels saw.  They have their fingers crossed Mardi Gras will bring a lot more activity to their rooms.

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