Some say water safety concerns have hurt MS tourism industry - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Some say water safety concerns have hurt MS tourism industry

Have worries about water safety in the Mississippi Sound hurt tourism this summer? (Photo source: WLOX) Have worries about water safety in the Mississippi Sound hurt tourism this summer? (Photo source: WLOX)
We found some mixed reaction among beach vendors about the water worries costing them business. (Photo source: WLOX) We found some mixed reaction among beach vendors about the water worries costing them business. (Photo source: WLOX)
The tourism bureau posted a statement about water safety on its website and offered visitors a link to the beach monitoring program, which regularly checks the water for bacteria levels. (Photo source: WLOX) The tourism bureau posted a statement about water safety on its website and offered visitors a link to the beach monitoring program, which regularly checks the water for bacteria levels. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Hot weather usually means more visitors to the beach. But have worries about E coli. and vibrio kept people away from the water this year? Those headlines may have kept some people out of the water, but have lingering concerns about bacteria hurt tourism this summer?

It depends on who you ask.                    

April of this year: Beach advisory flags go up because of concerns about high levels of E coli. bacteria. Early May in Biloxi:  A broken sewer line prompts another beach warning. Then the more alarming news in mid-May: someone loses a leg after contact with vibrio bacteria in the waters of the Sound.

Even though the headlines were weeks ago, the water worries remain.

"Everybody comes down here and asks about it. We just tell ‘em they test it as often as they can. And when they have the signs up is when they're not supposed to get in it," said Biloxi beach vendor Taylor Shirey.

And while Shirey feels certain he's lost business because of those water safety concerns, the executive director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast doesn't believe those perceptions have damaged summer tourism overall.

"The numbers that we receive for hotel occupancy and rates are better than last year. Restaurants seem to be booming. Most of the attractions have better attendance than they did last year as well," said Renee Areng.

Tourism leaders do acknowledge the worries about water safety. A paragraph on the tourism website addresses those concerns and provides visitors a direct link to the beach monitoring program.

"I know the DEQ and USM continually monitor the waters. And they post on their websites whether it's safe to go in," said Areng.

WLOX News found mixed reviews among beach vendors we talked with. Two told us the water worries have definitely hurt their business this summer. Another said, not so much.

The beach and waters are open for summer visitors, even if some beach visitors, may be hesitant to get wet.

"I've had a lot more about it this year, than I have in the past," said Shirey.

There are currently no beach advisories along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.       

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved. 

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