Will OWA siphon tourists from the Mississippi coast?

Will OWA siphon tourists from the Mississippi coast?

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - South Alabama is about to raise the stakes in the regional tourism competition. In just one week, the $250 million amusement park called OWA, opens to the public in Foley.

Competition for the family tourism dollar has always been strong along the gulf coast. But will the opening of OWA help boost regional tourism?  Or will it lure potential visitors away from Mississippi?

"Part of our times. We've got to offer the whole package and I think we have all the components and the environment to move forward," said Biloxi Mayor Andrew "Fofo" Gilich.

The mayor said Biloxi has a pretty attractive package already in place to entice visitors here.

"The sand beach, the golf, of course, the gaming. And 7,000 hotel rooms. Again, part of the challenge is to wrap it and wrap the package up and make it easy to get here and safe, friendly and beautiful while you're here."

OWA opens to the public in one week, and its primary market certainly includes South Mississippi.

"Our primary markets are from the 150-mile radius of the project. And so that could include the Biloxi market, it includes the Mobile, Alabama, market, Pensacola, Florida, market, the Montgomery market," said OWA Marketing Director Kristin Hellmich.

"But our problem here is we don't get the word out enough, I believe. We have a lot to offer. There's a lot of attractions, but we've got to do a better job of informing people what is here so they can take advantage of it," said Harrison County Supervisor Beverly Martin.

Supervisor Martin has years of experience in the tourism industry here. She's counting on OWA attracting even more visitors to the region; visitors that may well spend time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Well, I'm hoping that as people discover OWA, they might venture over our way and discover Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well," she said.

WLOX News Now reached out to the leadership of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast to ask about the potential impact of OWA on the tourism industry here. We were told, they have "no comment" at this time.

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