The summer tourism season is vitally important to the success or failure of tourism on the coast. Memorial Day weekend is always big, and so is the upcoming fourth of July holiday. If the numbers from the season so far are any indication, this should be a good year.
On a recent Friday afternoon, at the Gulfport Harbor, the line of people waiting to take the ferry to Ship Island was a long one. The weather was good and that helps, but, when it is not so good, some tourism businesses can take a big hit.
"Business was a little slow a few weeks ago," Louis Skremtta of Gulf Island Excursions said.
Skremtta says that was because of the approach of Tropical Storm Arlene, which only skirted the coast.
Despite that minor setback, Skrmetta, whose family has been taking tourists to Ship Island since the 1920s, says things are looking good. Last year, they carried 64,000 people to the island.
"If things keep going the way they are going, we should hit the 70,000 mark this year. We are hoping that we will have some good weather and no hurricanes," Skremetta said.
The folks at Marine Life are also hoping Mother Nature cooperates this summer. Marine Life is a big draw for visitors to the coast. A glance at the guest register on the day we were there, showed a list of visitors from as close as Ocean Springs and as far away as Washington state.
The oceanarium is open 364 days a year, but like Skremetta's business, it also depends on good weather.
According to the assistant director of research, Dr. Delphine Vanderpoll, summer is critical. Vanderpoll says the biggest numbers, by far, come during the summer months.
Marine Life is a family attraction, as is the Ship Island excursion. With the arrival of casino's more than a decade ago, the coast lost some of its family business.
Skrmetta says that is changing. Now the families are coming back to our area, and he sees no reason why their numbers won't continue to grow.