Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau aims to promote tourism - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau aims to promote tourism along the coast

The CVB's mission is to to promote tourism from Hancock to Jackson County. (Photo Source: WLOX) The CVB's mission is to to promote tourism from Hancock to Jackson County. (Photo Source: WLOX)
Many beachfront attractions that were destroyed in the storm did not reopen. (Photo Source: WLOX) Many beachfront attractions that were destroyed in the storm did not reopen. (Photo Source: WLOX)
GULFPORT/BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

As Coast residents focused on picking up the pieces of what was left after the storm, state leaders concentrated on creating a commission of several different entities that needed to recover quickly.

One those of those areas — tourism.

"When you look out and saw casinos sitting in the barges sitting in the middle of the street and saw the damage to the Hard Rock.....which hadn't even opened yet, and saw the damage to the Beau Rivage and all, I just thought maybe tourism was over for us," said tourism committee member John McFarland.

However, one by one, casinos and hotels began to reopen and the Regional Convention and Visitor's Bureau was birthed to promote tourism from Hancock to Jackson County.

However, many beach front attractions, like the popular Marine Life Oceanarium, did not reopen. The oceanarium's former director, Moby Solangi, now runs the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. 

"It has been a big struggle, you know we lost everything but we're delighted. We're becoming bigger and better. We're offering more programs than we had at Marine Life," IMM director and president Solangi.

Solangi says Marine Life was a 50-year-old building when it was destroyed by Katrina.

"Marine Life was an iconic facility, we would get almost 200-250,000 people a year, but it was in a small speck of land, and it was on two acres of land and the programming was limited," added the director.

Solangi says that while IMM receives around 30,000 visitors per year, they focus more on teaching visitors about marine life.

"When people come to the coast, because of the murky waters, they cannot really experience or see marine life," Solangi added. "We bring nature close to people."

Another iconic coast attraction is Gulf Islands Water Park, which had just opened one month before the storm hit.

"Since Katrina those first few years were a challenge, but no doubt it's been steadily increasing, steadily growing, more people coming every year," said Gulf Islands Water Park general manager Mark Moore. "It's been one of the stronger tourism years that we've experienced here directly at the water park in the past several years."

Slowly but surely, more restaurants and attractions are rebuilding and tourists are steadily coming back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Wednesday night, WLOX News is airing a special focused entirely on Life Beyond Katrina, and taking a look at how far our coast has come in the last decade. Tune in at 7 on WLOX ABC, or catch the hour special on Saturday at 10:35 p.m. on WLOX CBS.

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