Historic Tourist Business Making A Comeback

Even after a day in the sun, passengers on the "Captain Pete" were all smiles as the ship pulled into dock.

"After Labor Day, we scaled our trips back to about one trip a day. We've still got quite an interest in it. People came out today. A pretty good number of people came out today, about 120 people today," said Capt. Louis Skrmetta.

For decades, the Skrmetta family has been ferrying people out to the barrier islands.

"My grandfather started carrying people out to the island in 1926, so it's a little over 80 years my family's been involved in transporting people to the barrier islands," Skrmetta said.

The business and ships survived both Hurricanes Camille and Katrina, but Captain Louis Skrmetta says Ship Island Excursions took one of it's biggest financial hits the year after Katrina.

"We only carried about 19,000 passengers. It sounds like a lot, but in '05, we carried 64,000, so it was a big drop in business," he said.

But according to Skrmetta, things are looking up this year.

"2007 was very, very good for us. We had a comeback of about 30 percent increase in business this year, which is real encouraging, considering we still don't have a lot of the hotels and restaurants back on Highway 90," Skrmetta said.

He's optimistic that better days are ahead on the horizon.

"Nothing but a bright future here on the Gulf Coast. People are telling me everyday they love it. It's their first visit to the Gulf Coast, even with all the destruction, this is a wonderful place, and we see why you stick it out and live down here in this hurricane prone area," he said.

The ship will continue making trips to the island through the end of October.

The ship leaves at 9 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday and departs Sunday at noon. It's located just east of the Port of Gulfport.