BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Coast hotel business was off to a brisk start in 2020 with bookings up in January and February. Then coronavirus restrictions and closures hit, keeping visitors at home and hotel rooms dark.
With casinos now open and many coronavirus restrictions easing, tourism leaders say that will help lead the area’s economic recovery.
Information from the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association shows hotel stays in the Biloxi-Gulfport area was up 5.7% in January and 8.6% in February. By April, business was down a whopping 62.4%. St. Patrick’s Day weekend marked the turning point, as parades and events were called off; just a third of coast hotel rooms were occupied.
Coast casinos closed March 16th. March and April are usually busy times at coast hotels with school and Easter breaks bringing visitors to the beaches, casinos and golf courses.
As restrictions eased at the beginning of May, the numbers improved. By Mother's Day weekend, 62 percent of rooms were booked on Saturday night.
Casino resorts are now open and all hotels must follow the CDC and state guidelines for safety of employees and guests.
According to Coastal Mississippi, the area accounts for one third of the State of Mississippi’s travel and tourism industry, having welcomed more than 13 million visitors in 2019.