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Gulf Coast tourism numbers are up and expected to keep increasing

Vacationers that were originally headed to Fla. instead came to South Mississippi for some fun...
Vacationers that were originally headed to Fla. instead came to South Mississippi for some fun in the sun.
Updated: Dec. 20, 2018 at 10:16 AM CST
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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Tourism numbers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast continue to grow and are expected to be even higher next year. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast said 2019′s numbers are on track to surpass those of 2018.

The first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year is coming to a close at the end of December. Occupancy tax revenue received in December for October room sales was strong, coming in at 27 percent above October 2018's tax revenue.

With less than two weeks left in 2018, the number of hotel rooms booked for next year are already exceeding last year’s numbers by 16 percent. As the fiscal years heads into its second quarter, the number of tentative room nights has increased by 47 percent.

“We have spoken to several hotels across the region, and have received extremely positive forecasts for 2019,” said Milton Segarra, CEO of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “From what we have heard so far, 2018 seems to have been a positive year for the hotel industry, exceeding budgeted occupancy and revenue, and seeing an increase in results over 2017. We look forward to seeing an ever further increase in 2019.”

Segarra said tourism today goes beyond raw hotel numbers. Measuring success is about traffic and its total economic impact on the market.

“Ten years ago, it was pretty much, let’s see how many people are staying in hotels, and we’ll see how well we’re doing,” Segarra said. “Now it’s how many people are staying in hotels, how many people are coming and visiting for one day, how long they’re staying, how often they’re coming and how much they are spending.”

Another area where tourism leaders on the Coast have seen growth is on the Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast website, which saw 1.7 million users in 2018. That’s an increase of 18 percent over 2017. Tourism officials attribute that increase to the growing number of travel decisions made based on information found online.

Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast represents the three coastal counties, and Segarra said the key is to see the entire area as one tourism community.

“From Biloxi to Gulfport, from Bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs, from Pascagoula to Diamondhead, that’s what people want to see,” he said. That is the unique thought that we bring to the experience."

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