New law brings uncertainty to coast tourism industry

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The coast tourism industry could suffer a serious blow to their business later this summer. That's because Governor Phil Bryant recently signed a bill which allows local school districts to choose their own start date instead of having to wait until the third week of August.

Brandon Wooldridge is the owner of Big Play in Biloxi. It's a family entertainment venue and tourism hot spot. Wooldridge has spent thousands of dollars sprucing up his business, hoping to draw an even bigger crowd this tourism season, but that bigger crowd he is expecting could be in jeopardy.

"Anyone related to the tourism or hospitality industry down here has been counting on this for the past two years since it passed. We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments, because we thought the season was going to be longer," said Wooldridge.

Governor Bryant signed the bill, which basically reverses a previous law that delayed the start of the school year until at least the third Monday in August. That's the bill Wooldridge depended on to ensure the longer tourism season.

"I think it will negatively affect our business as well as any business on the coast that counts on tourism," said Wooldridge.

Under the new law, school districts will be allowed to choose their own start date. Instead of being made, by law, to wait until the third Monday in August, they can start back when they choose.

"The problem is from a business stand point there's uncertainty, and we don't really know. Your seasonal labor, your marketing promotions, just various things involving day-to-day operations," said Wooldridge.

Big Play employees have some concerns about the law as well.

"It could affect my job by having slower times when we should be busier. Just the economy of the coast could change drastically," said Big Play employee Katie White.

Wooldridge is hoping school districts will be mindful of the tourism economy and choose to start school later.

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