BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Here we are halfway through the summer and the tourism industry in South Mississippi is crunching the numbers. Hotel bookings are such a big part of tourism. The most important number is 15,227. That's the number of hotel rooms currently in the three coastal counties.
The industry is fighting to get back to pre-Katrina levels. Prior to the 2005 storm, there were 17,544 hotel rooms in the coast's inventory. It's been a struggle, but the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association is satisfied with the progress.
Another key number is occupancy. The coast would like to get weekday stays up. Weekend numbers are averaging about 87 percent occupied on average Friday and Saturday nights.
The newest hotel on the coast, Margaritaville, with its 373 rooms and upscale amenities, is proving to be a game changer on the hotel scene.
"That's the largest non-casino development in the Southeast in decades. We're really excited about that. Because of what they have to offer and their brand, along with the attractions they offer, they're going to bring in their own market. They're not just opening and feeding off the existing market. They're bringing in a market everyone will benefit from," said Linda Hornsby, Executive Director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association.
Several other new projects are in the pipeline or nearing completion. In Biloxi, the Hyatt Place on Highway 90 was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy on Friday. Furniture is being moved in and the project developers hope to have a permanent certificate of occupancy in the next month.
The $18.5 million hotel, owned by the same group as the Hampton right next door, will feature 114 rooms. The project manager of Hyatt Place says they hope to open by mid September.
Of the 15,227 hotel rooms in the coast's inventory right now, only 9,698 are not affiliated with a casino.