GULFPORT (WLOX) -- If south Mississippi is going to rebuild its niche as a tourism destination, area leaders know their communities need a lot more hotel rooms. Suddenly, names like Marriott and Hilton are ready to provide those rooms. And that's considered a sign that the tourism industry is on the rebound.
Several of the 40 Residence Inn employees gathered in a room on the third floor of their new hotel.
"One. Two. Three," one of the ladies shouted.
The group then yelled, "Go Commonwealth. Go Residence. Go team."
Commonwealth Hotels is the company that manages the two new Gulfport properties across the street from the airport. The Residence Inn by Marriott location should open before May is over. Rosie Lowe is its general manager. She said Commonweath came to Gulfport because "they wanted to be part of the regrowth of the area."
Residence Inn is one of the five new hotels in Gulfport and Biloxi that, starting this summer, will provide new rooms and new amenities for south Mississippi guests.
"Everybody that we've talked to is waiting for this hotel to open," said Lowe.
Residence Inn shares a parking lot with the Hilton Garden Inn, another Commonwealth Hotels property. Kenny Glavan will oversee the Hilton Garden Inn when it opens June 16th.
"The people need it. And the industry needs it. And I can't wait to get started," he said.
On the weekend before Katrina, south Mississippi had 17,000 hotel rooms. When the power came back on after the storm, just 2,000 of those rooms could be rented. Today, the area has 11,000 hotel rooms. So hotel executives realize any new properties that come on line will bolster those numbers, and reinvigorate the tourism industry.
"Well it just brings another quality product," said Glavan. "And it just is another step to the biggest recovery in U.S. history."
Together, the two airport hotels add 240 hotel rooms to a south Mississippi tourism market that's looking for as many quality rooms as it can find.
Three hundred additional rooms will come from a Courtyard by Marriott on the beach in Gulfport, a new Holiday Inn on Highway 49, and the recently opened La Quinta on Cedar Lake Road in Biloxi. Rosie Lowe said a second Courtyard by Marriott would open near the movie theater in D'Iberville later this year.