By Jonathan Brannan
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -
The numbers are in, and they have many people on the tourism board smiling. The coast has changed a good bit over the past several years. It's looking like the arrows are all pointing in the right direction on the coast, that is, if you like growth and development.
"Numbers are starting to have a plus in front of them instead of a minus like they have in the past many years," said Linda Hornsby, Director of the Mississippi Hotel Motel Lodging Association.
Hornsby referred to numbers like available hotel rooms. This number is quickly approaching pre-Katrina status. With only about 2,000 rooms to go before reaching that milestone, Hornsby said there's a lot that's drawing developers to our area.
Now, a brand new 114-room Hyatt hotel has opened its doors in Biloxi.
"I'm really happy to see that brand on the coast. That's the first time Hyatt's been here in quite a while," said Hornsby.
Leslie Herrington, General Manager of Hyatt Place, said the numbers are likely going up because of experience and curiosity.
"People that have vacationed here prior to Katrina are anxious and excited to come back and see the new properties," said Herrington.
New visitors are coming as well. According to Renee Areng, Executive Director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, even after accounting for the increased number of hotel rooms over the past year, the stats still show growth.
"Year end numbers are in, and they are all pointing up, all increasing, and we could not be happier," Areng said.
It hasn't just been hotels pushing up the numbers. Family entertainment has seen a fair amount of growth over the past year as well. One of the biggest investments is Margaritaville.
"We really thought that there was a need for family entertainment on the coast on a large scale, and that's what we think we've brought," said Margaritaville Biloxi's General Manager Joe Farruggio.
With even more developments in the works, Areng said she hopes to continue the momentum for as long as possible.
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