Hotel industry takes gut punch from beach closure due to COVID-19

Hotel industry takes gut punch from beach closure due to COVID-19

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Edgewater Inn in Biloxi is hurting. With a lot of reservations on the books for spring break, Bernie Weiter was hoping to salvage something this weekend despite the pandemic.

“A few of them said, ‘Well, we’ll come on down anyway, and spend time on the beach.’ And then, they closed that. So, now, there was nothing for them to do," Weiter said.

The hotel has just had 58 cancellations, and it’s happening industry-wide.

Linda Hornsby, executive director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, said that occupancy is only 15-20% of the 15,000 rooms on the Coast.

She said the industry was poised for a big comeback from the algae bloom.

“We were ready for a spring that was overcome all that, and we would have,” she said. “I mean, we’ve had nothing but gorgeous weather, and we would have been packed at least every weekend if not during the week.”

Edgewater Inn has a few loyal regulars, like Maine resident Ralph Duncan, who have for now decided it’s better to shelter here than risk going back home.

“We’re here. We’re in the room. We take out,” he said. “And so our exposure here is minimal compared to being on the road.”

Weiter said the problems have snowballed.

“You had a lot of people who had deposits up and some rooms all the way paid for,” he said. “And now, with nothing coming in, we’re trying to get them refunds. So, that hurts even more.”

With everything else that has taken a whack at the tourism industry, he is exhausted.

“When the coronavirus goes away, who knows? We’ll likely be back with the algae bloom again,” he said. “It’s like we’re getting a one-two-three punch.”

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