The Gulfport Beachfront hotel is the only one open on Highway 90 in Gulfport. Clerks book rooms despite on-going storm repairs in other parts of the hotel. Manager Peter Magee says, "We're trying to get as many rooms open as we can because us being the only beach front hotel open right now, as many rooms as we can get up we'll be able to sell this summer."
But Magee says those filling the rooms won't be the usual summer guests. "We are getting a small amount of tourists that wanna come down to the beach and casinos and so forth but I think most of our business this summer will be contractors and relief workers once they get time off for summer."
As for the casino hotels one executive says the summer will bring different types of visitors. Ironically Hurricane Katrina's destruction and devastation will be a draw for some, those who just want to see it and those who want to help rebuild. Rich Westfall of the Isle of Capri says, "It's sort of a morbid curiosity but it is a great curiosity. You saw it with 911 in New York and you've seen it here on the Coast and in New Orleans, so I think this summer the Coast will be filled with new tourists."
When the Isle of Capri Casino opened in late December, so did all but about a hundred of its rooms. Those still damaged will be ready by Memorial Day and so will a brand new gambling floor with 450 slots. Westfall says with more rooms, golf courses and restaurants opening every day, people will come back. "Things will not be normal by any stretch of the imagination but I do see a glimmer of hope and I think we will have a tourist season this summer but it will be a little different."