Tourism industry expects promising summer season

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The tourism industry along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is looking forward to a busy Memorial Day weekend. This holiday weekend is always the traditional kickoff to the summer tourist season. With new attractions and a recovering economy, expectations are running high this year.

As beach crews prepared the shore for the busy holiday weekend, the Biloxi tour train got ready for another adventurous ride through the historic town. The longtime tour train operator has high expectations with summer fast approaching.

"I certainly do. I've had a fantastic spring. People are coming for all kinds of reasons down here, and we're thankful that the weather's cleared. We've got our fingers crossed for a great 2014," said Carla Beaugez Taconi.

"Shopping and the beach," said two visitors from Alabama, when asked what brought them to Biloxi.

They love spending time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and are even more excited with the forecast of near perfect weather this holiday weekend.

"Love it. The water is beautiful and the weather is fine. Pretty blue sky with white puffy clouds," said Janice Barrentine.

"We love this tour. We had it before Katrina, and this is the first chance we've had since Katrina," said her traveling companion, Jean Mills.

"We're just replacing the flags, making it look good," said beach vendor Troy Voth, who was replacing American flags at his vendor spot.

Voth wants his spot to shine this holiday weekend and is expecting plenty of rental business.

"I think we're going to be pretty busy this weekend, Memorial Day weekend. It's supposed to be pretty good; have a pretty good turnout. This summer, yeah, we'll be pretty packed," said Voth.

Following a lackluster summer season last year, those in the Coast tourism industry will be happy to hear that AAA is predicting a busy Memorial Day weekend, the busiest since the recession began. AAA is also predicting a slight increase in overall summer tourism and travel.

Harrah's Gulf Coast is certainly stoked about this summer. With the brand change and a new front lawn being dedicated on June 21, this summer is special for the former Grand Casino.

"There's a lot of interest and excitement for our property and the transition we're going through, so we're very optimistic with regard to this summer. We're excited to show off our product," said Kennedy Smith, Vice President of Marketing for Harrah's Gulf Coast.

AAA says travelers can expect to pay about the same at the pump this summer. Gas prices across the country are very close to what they were a year ago.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.