GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – Rain put a damper on many outdoor activities on the Fourth of July weekend, but in between downpours, visitors got out and packed into South Mississippi attractions.
And that’s good for the tourism industry, which is heading into the second half of the season. At least two tourist attractions are starting to feel the love for what they hope will be a successful post-pandemic recovery.
Business is rolling along nicely this summer at the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum. “People are excited to get out. The kids are excited to get out,” said Katherine Sutton, museum marketing coordinator. And, they’re loving the museum, they love riding the trains. They have such a great time.”
Marketing coordinator Katherine Sutton said the railroad museum has been busier than she thought they’d be at this point in the recovery. Any recent hiccups haven’t been because of COVID.
“We have actually been pleasantly surprised at how busy we are,” Sutton said. “There are some days when it’s slow, and it’s probably because of the weather. The weather has stumped everybody this year with all the rain. But, we’re really busy today and it’s down-pouring outside.”
This is the first Fourth of July for the Mississippi Aquarium.
Jeff Clark, Mississippi Aquarium public relations and communications manager, said the aquarium is on track to record 300,000 people before its first anniversary on Aug. 29.
“Our numbers are great. If you were to draw a chart, there would just be a steady increase,” he said. “We started out and people kept coming. Then, in March, with spring break, we really started seeing people. And it’s just continuing from there.”
It’s bringing in visitors like Chris Downs from Carrollton, Miss.
The aquarium was his goal this trip, but he loves everything about the area and he’s ready to switch from visitor to resident.
“If it was my choice, I’d move down to the Coast and live,” Downs said. “I like the Mississippi Coast because you’ve got the older houses here, the antebellum look, the big yards and everything. We were just talking about just getting your chair and sitting out in the front yard and looking at the Coast and the water.”
The number of visitors have operators feeling good about this summer and the future.
“You know, we’re very happy with our almost first full year open at Mississippi Aquarium,” Clark said. “But, what we did yesterday doesn’t matter. We want to do better today and we want more people to come tomorrow.”
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