Coast Tourism Heading Into Fourth Quarter With A Plan

The nostalgic pictures set up around a Biloxi banquet hall were from the USS John Weeks. The destroyer participated in three American wars. This week, some of its crew members attended a reunion. "Counting the wives, it was 122," Hal Gross said as he looked over the crowd.

Gross organized the reunion. The World War II sailor said Biloxi was a great host. "They loved it," Gross said. "In fact, there are several who are going to make reservations to come back here by themselves, you know."

Smaller coast resorts count on reunion business, especially in October, November and December, when it gets a lot tougher for coast hotels to stay busy.

David Anderson runs the Biloxi Beach Resort. He said, "We have the potential here to be a 12 month business. It's just that we just haven't got to it yet."

The Harrison County Tourism Commission has come up with a way to beat the November and December blues. It's spending $75,000 on an advertising campaign that starts next weekend. People in Montgomery, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Jackson will be reminded that a Gulf Coast getaway is just a short drive away.

Tourism director Steve Richer said his office is doing that to "try to get impulse travel. People who know us well, but want to come for special reasons."

Anderson said everybody in his industry must spread the word that a fall trip to the coast is a sight to behold. "It falls on us that we should be putting together things to bring people down here," he said.

If that can be done, hoteliers think the coast may be a fourth quarter destination for more than just military reunions.