Sour Sugar Bowl Predicted For Coast Tourism

From a reservations standpoint, it's been a long and sometimes lonely year for many coast hotels. That's why hotel executives like Asher Travis counted on the Sugar Bowl to ease their pain. But at his four coast properties, that doesn't look likely.

"We were looking for any help that we could get," Travis said. "And with Sugar Bowl not turning out to be prospects for being a great Sugar Bowl, it's going to be a little tougher than we thought."

Casino executives sense the same thing. According to Grand Casino's marketing executive Steve Rosen, "I don't anticipate a great Sugar Bowl."

Rosen may have to change his casino's marketing strategy just a bit, because he doesn't think the LSU/Illinois football game will bring many fans to the coast. "I think that people here from a fan's standpoint are pretty happy that LSU won," Rosen said. "But from an economic standpoint, it probably would have been a little bit better off if Tennessee won."

Ads and brochures have been sent to the two schools, so Sugar Bowl fans know what the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers. But tourism leaders don't think they'll do much good, one, because New Orleans has too many vacant hotel rooms, and two, because LSU fans don't have very far to travel.

Travis said, "I don't think we'll see the busloads or the big tailgate parties that we've had in the past for some of the Sugar Bowl teams. I think we'll see some, but not a tremendous amount."

And that's not the sweet sound hoteliers wanted to hear as they ready for the Sugar Bowl to kickoff the new year.

While local tourism leaders aren't expecting much spillover from the Sugar Bowl, they are bracing for a Super Bowl rush. The rescheduled February third game coincides with Mardi Gras celebrations. So hotel rooms in New Orleans may be hard to find. That's why coast hotels blocked off hundreds of rooms that week, so Super Bowl fans have a place to stay.