HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A busier than usual Spring Break season is creating hope this year's summer tourism season will be the best we've seen in years.
Hancock County Welcome Center officials said in March they saw the number of visitors jump with 2,500 more people stopping by than normally do at during that month. With summer just over the horizon, officials said the increase may be an early sign of what's to come.
Florida resident Carol McKellar said she had no idea there were so many fun things to do in Mississippi.
"I wasn't aware of some of the Rails to Trails bicycle routes, which are available in Mississippi," said McKellar. "They also told me about Bay St. Louis, which sounds like a nice town to be in and walk around and cycle around and do tourist things there."
March brought a spike in tourists and travelers to the Hancock County Welcome Center. Officials believe an improving economy and cabin fever from months of cold weather have people ready to get out and travel.
"I'm hoping that this is our year that more and more people are coming into Mississippi. That more and more people are traveling," Hancock County Welcome Center Supervisor Bobbie Tate said. "We have a lot of people from Louisiana. We have a lot of people from Texas. They can do day trips. With the advertising that we're having with the state the local tourism entities, I'm hopeful that this is our year. "
The staff knows travelers passing through our state today could be tomorrow's tourists. Everyone is encouraged to explore Mississippi beyond what can seen from the interstate.
"We just encourage them to ride along our scenic route, because we know if we get them on the scenic route, they're going to stop somewhere and have some lunch. They're going to spend some money somewhere along the way," said Tate.
Enrique Puerto was one person convinced by the staff to take a detour.
"I'm probably going to take this scenic route. I've never been the scenic route. I've always been in a big hurry to get where I'm going," Puerto said. "It's about time I slowed down."
National Travel and Tourism Week is May 3rd through the 11th. Hancock County Welcome Center will be giving out complimentary snacks and a Mississippi souvenir, and there will also be several days of special entertainment.