Tourism officials get low down on big 2016 numbers

Updated: Apr. 27, 2017 at 5:54 PM CDT
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Big tourism numbers for South Mississippi. 2016 was a very good year.

Thursday, the board of directors of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast got a chance to see what hard work can do.

The numbers speak for themselves: 6.2 million people traveled to the coast last year. They spent almost $2 billion. That translated into more than 30,000 hospitality-related jobs.

Board president Clay Wagner was impressed.

"It took a great bit of effort, a good bit of time to get all three counties to come together as one entity representing all three of those counties, and market our area as one big community," Wagner said.

He likes what this means for the future.

"If we just keep going at the run rate we're going at, we will be phenomenally successful," Wagner added. "I'm not really sure to be looking at improving them, I'm looking at let's just keep doing what we're doing."

This was also the first tourism meeting since spring break. While the overall economic impact of the event is not yet known, Renee Areng said she's hearing some good things.

"The response has been positive," Areng said. "What we're hoping is that they come down for this promoted event and then they'll come back with their friends and family. That's always the overall goal."

Hard numbers are coming in from the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association for the spring break weekend. Occupancy was at almost 89 percent. That's up 2 percent from last year. The average daily rate increased about $20 per room, and hotel inventory was up 6 to 8 percent.

While the event had plenty of fans, Donna Brown, General Manager of Gulf Hills Hotel in Ocean Springs, was not one.

"My compadres in the hotel industry, the ones that I have talked to, were not real happy," Brown said. "Yes, they had spring breakers, but they also had a lot of problems within the properties within themselves."

But, Brown said she benefited indirectly. Her hotel was filled with people who wanted to be on the coast, but didn't want to participate in spring break.

"We're not a jump and run to the beach. We are not a jump and run with something in your hand, alcohol. Our guests come because the environment," said Brown.

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