BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - COVID-19 hit tourism like a striker whaps a air hockey puck.
Travel spending is down nearly $500 billion, costing the U.S. economy nearly one point one trillion dollars.
And although South Mississippi tourism has been feeling the heat for even longer, optimism is growing.
“We had a couple of really rough years there - not just the pandemic but before that was the algae bloom, whatever it was,” said Bill Raymond, Biloxi historical administrator. “Now, people are just so excited to be able to go out and enjoy themselves. ... Just looking this year over the last five years, I can see that we’re building back to where we’re supposed to be this time of year.”
Sunday began National Travel and Tourism Week, which highlights the power of travel and the industry’s role in bringing back our communities, restoring the U.S. economy, rebuilding our workforce and reconnecting America.
Kenny Glavan, regional director of hotel operations for Lodging & Leisure Investments, is also optimistic about South Mississippi’s tourism comeback.
“Seventy-five percent of our customers are repeat customers, when you that, you know they are waiting for the signal that we’re open again for business,” he said. “They’re coming back.”
Tania Collins of Mobile is one of those visitors. And she’s back to her epicenter of fun.
“There are endless things to do here,” she said. “Every time we come, we can find something new to do. There’s constantly new things are that opening up. ... It’s family friendly. The kids can’t get enough of it.”
Louisiana resident Thomas Carter is also back for another mini-vacation.
“Always enjoy some good food,” he said. “On the Coast, we have the best seafood. Enjoy time with friends, really. Just get a chance to get fresh air and just be out on the beach.”
Glavan believes that South Mississippi can make up for lost time and revenues.
“My expectation is that we regain 90 to 95 percent of our losses. I’m real aggressive in seeing that. ... I’m as exciting as I’ve ever been. I think we have a high ceiling. And we’re going to be here with welcoming arms for everybody who wants a fantastic vacation.”