South Mississippi Tourism Industry Remains Optimistic

When the temperatures heat up, many people head to water, like we found here at the beach in Gulfport.

But it's not just South Mississippians soaking up the rays. Regina Brown from Benton, Arkansas actually ended up here while sightseeing.

"Well, actually were driving around in Hattiesburg trying to find something to do and then I saw the sign that said New Orleans and Gulfport, so we just came off down this way. I said I didn't know where I was going, so we just kept going I said we'll go until the road runs out and this is where we ended up," said Brown.

And quite a few people are heading to South Mississippi, which is good news for the area's tourism industry post-Hurricane Katrina.

But the name "Katrina" is expected to help bring even more people to the Mississippi Gulf Coast before the end of the summer season.

"In an ironic way, the storm gave a lot more publicity to the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast because there isn't anybody in the world who hasn't heard about us, and that's a lot better in one way than all of the advertising money we used to have could give us in terms of exposure," said executive director of Mississippi Gulf Convention and Visitors Bureau Steve Richer.

And Richer says they can expect the same traditional fun here in South Mississippi as in years past because in addition to the beaches and casinos, there is Ship Island Excursions, a shrimping tour, two schooners still sailing the waters and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center which will open soon.

So the tourism industry has a reason to be optimistic, but not just for this upcoming season.

"Oh, I believe its going to be a good decade because a lot of good things are happening and I think we're gonna just keep growing in a very positive way that both the residents and the visitors will enjoy," said Richer.

Richer says there are 6500 hotel rooms now available.

And that number is expected to reach 10-thousand by the beginning of next year with the opening of at least two more casino hotels.