BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - 2016 was a good year for the hotel industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Several new properties opened, and several more are in the planning stages.
New hotels which opened this year range from the large Margaritaville resort in Biloxi, to the boutique-style Hotel Whiskey in Pass Christian.
"I'm very encouraged by these developers pursuing these projects. The Margaritaville project at 373 rooms, few people realize that that is the largest non-casino hotel development in decades," said Linda Hornsby, Director of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association.
The addition of Margaritaville, along with other new hotels, brings the coast ever closer to matching its pre-Katrina room numbers.
"Right now, we have 15,341 rooms operating in the three-county area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That's compared to 17,400 prior to Katrina. So, we're at more than 87 percent of our pre-Katrina inventory," she explained.
Hyatt Place on the beach in the Biloxi is among the newest additions to the hotel industry. The 114 room hotel caters to the corporate crowd, while also doing a steady business with leisure travelers.
Why did Hyatt Place developers choose Biloxi?
"I think it's just due to the growth after Katrina. We've seen a lot of other properties doing really well in this market, and our management group jumped on an opportunity to help rebuild the coast," General Manager Leslie Herrington said. "We're very excited with the growth coming in 2017."
Small, boutique hotels are also targeting the coast. Hotel Whiskey recently opened in Pass Christian, with its 10 rooms primarily aimed at New Orleans visitors, along with coast residents wanting to enjoy a long weekend in the Pass.
Folks in the hotel industry are hopeful the positive momentum from 2016 will carry over into the new year.
"Very optimistic. There are more properties already coming and developing. We know there's good things to come in 2017 for this market," said Herrington.
With those new hotel rooms added to the inventory, Linda Hornsby says in 2017 she'd like to see an increase in hotel occupancy numbers. Through November, the occupancy rate was running at around 56 percent.