Ocean Springs works on strategy to recruit more hotels

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - About one million tourists visit Ocean Springs every year, but the mayor said there is a shortage of places for them to stay. On Friday, Mayor Connie Moran met with the Ocean Springs Chamber and the city's Economic Development Council to come up with a strategy to attract hotels.

One group in particular would like to see a new hotel go up within two years. Members of the Ocean Springs Garden Club are ready to show off their city's blooms and beauty. The group will host the Garden Clubs of Mississippi Convention in 2016.

"We'll have about 250 to 275 people. It could be higher than that since we are on the Coast. People do like to come here for a trip," said Catherine Chernecky.

The incoming President of the Ocean Springs Garden Club said she is worried about a shortage of hotel rooms to accommodate the visitors.

"At this point, we're looking at hotels in Biloxi and hotels in St. Martin to put the ladies up in, because there's really nothing for the Garden Club ladies here in Ocean Springs at this point," said Chernecky. It would be nice if we could host the ladies in a hotel and meet in the same location. It would be so nice if the ladies didn't have to have a map and drive around Ocean Springs. If they didn't have to cross the bridge from Biloxi, they could stay over here."

Ocean Springs has only a few hotels, along with B&Bs and vacation homes. Moran agrees there is a big demand for more hotels.

"We have about eight to 10 festivals that draw a lot of people here. We don't lack the visitors. We lack the hotel rooms. We want heads in beds," said Moran.

The mayor and several groups are devising a plan to contact and recruit hotel companies. They have come up with a list of potential locations. Their message is simple: There's plenty of room in the city to build a hotel.

"There are some on the waterfront. There are some right here within walking distance of downtown, some near the Mary C. O'Keefe and, of course, Highway 57 near our sports complex. We recently had a tournament with nearly 4,400 people attending on a weekend and no place to stay," said Moran.

Chernecky hopes more rooms will open up by the time her convention guests arrive.

"I think it would be phenomenal if we could get at least one nice hotel in Ocean Springs before 2016. I would love to have two," Chernecky said.

"We feel like if they come here and stay here, they're more likely to eat at our restaurants. They'll go to more performances at the Mary C. O'Keefe. They'll enjoy our museums, our unique shops and galleries and make a destination out of it," said Moran.

The mayor said the next step is to put together a brochure to send to hotel companies. Those brochures will showcase the city's demographics, events and attractions. The city is also working with the Mississippi Development Authority to come up with a target list of hotels.

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