#278. Donations Then….Tourists Now

Posted on | The Agurban

Donations Then….Tourists Now

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana.  Many Americans were very generous in giving of their time and money in assisting in the cleanup and rebuilding of that wonderful part of our country.  I was fortunate to be able to make numerous trips to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, making many great friends there, listening to their dreams of how to rebuild their small towns.  They dreamed big!  But, then they put those dreams into action and did it!

A key part of their strategy of building better communities was to focus upon both the quality of life and the very unique sense of place of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Hoping to make it more of a tourist destination was a key driver in the rebuilding process.  With 78,000 residents of Mississippi directly employed in the tourism industry, keeping tourists flowing to the Magnolia State was a key initiative of everyone there.  And, that flow of tourists shut off when Katrina struck had rebounded  greatly.  Until…..

The April 20th explosion and fire on the BP Oil drilling ship started to spew 5,000 barrels per day into the Gulf of Mexico.  And, the news organizations began tracking the oil in hopes of being on the scene when they could find the first oil covered bird to show on live TV.  How many of those did we see in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez?

Despite the fact that the oil has not made landfall yet, and they’ve not found any birds, those news reports have done a masterful job of shutting off tourists’ interests in visiting the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches, especially when the picture painted by those journalists is of the beaches covered with oil.  And, economies along the Gulf Coast have suffered greatly because of the perception (not facts) of that oil on the beaches.

Even though people aren’t traveling there, here is what I found out from the Mississippi Development Authority this week.  All beaches are open and unrestricted.  Every hotel, casino and restaurant is also open.  Charter fishing, crabbing, recreational fishing and other water sports are operating like normal.  The two main industries (non-tourist) that appear to be of most concern are the oyster industry’s reefs and the impact upon the shrimping industry.

So, if you’re planning a vacation or weekend getaway, why not spend it on the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast?  I’m changing some of my travel plans to do so soon.  There are some wonderful small towns to visit there.