BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - While COVID-19 hit our tourism industry hard, the downturn has not been as severe as expected. Coast tourism is performing among the best in the nation.
That’s according to the latest tourism research released Thursday morning by Coastal Mississippi CEO Milton Segarra at a meeting with the Gulf Coast Business Council.
Segarra says South Mississippi tourism has seen success and growth in the past year, thanks in part to the the $3.4 million the Coast was awarded from the Tourism Recovery Fund.
Mississippi was the top travel spending market in the U.S. last year, with the Gulf Coast accounting for one-third of all the activity regarding tourism.
That places the Coast as one of the highest performing destinations in our country in 2020.
Research also shows that casinos have remained a top reason for visiting.
“You have a very solid second to none in the South, a regional powerhouse in gaming,” said Segarra. “That’s a competitive advantage that we have. No other destination in our region is close to us with this, and this is very strong for us. We’re working hand in hand with our partners in the gaming industry to make sure we maximize this opportunity and we expand that.”
Outdoor activities, events, attractions, and business travel were also main visitation drivers.
According to the research, an overwhelming majority of visitors to Coastal Mississippi are very satisfied with their overall trip experience and the friendliness of the people, which has led to a repeat visitation rate of 75 percent. To further highlight the impact that Coastal Mississippi’s residents and community have on the tourism industry, 20-25 percent of its visitors listed friends and family who live here as a primary reason for their trip.
Segarra also discussed the anticipated return of the Amtrak passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast next year.
“As any major hub in transportation, we need to keep growing and to have this train, this Amtrak route, certainly will help us, especially the day visits and also for more destination packages,” said Segarra. “They could be a couple of days here, a couple of days in New Orleans or Mobile for that matter.”
Amtrak will run from New Orleans to Mobile with stops on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.