Mayor addresses airline, tourism development summit

Here is the text of remarks that Mayor A.J. Holloway made to the Airline and Tourism Developmetn Summit, on April 8, 2008 at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

Thank all of you for being here.

Bruce asked me to tell you a little bit about the Biloxi story – and where we are today.

First, let me say this: I appreciate your interest in Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Biloxi, in particular, represents the most compelling and exciting story in the Katrina recovery zone.

I say this because we were enjoying the most prosperous time of our 300-plus year history when this storm struck, and today we have potential that we never even dreamed of before.

We’d seen $6 billion worth of growth. We’d seen the number of visitors increase from a million a year to between 8 and 10 million a year.

We’d seen the number of hotel room double to nearly 20,000. We were doubling the size of our airport and our convention center.

We’d created 15,000 jobs, and invested hundreds of millions in streets and drainage, affordable housing, public education, parks and recreation, historic preservation and museums.

We felt we had the total package – great championship golf courses, deep sea fishing, a rich and colorful history, an outstanding quality of life for our residents and a unique experience for visitors – and at an affordable price.

Today, 30 months after Katrina, we still have those things, and we’re seeing a milestone – large or small – each and every day.

We’ve issued more than 20,000 permits of one type or another. Our airport has doubled in size, and our convention center IS doubling in size.

Our casino resort industry last year did more business than ever, grossing more than a billion dollars in gaming revenue.

Our city is rebuilding – some areas quicker than others, given the challenges of insurance, construction and elevations.

The casino resort industry continues to be the engine driving the economy, and I think it always will be.

Let me give you a quick example of how it all ties in together.

Right now, we have the billion-dollar Margaritaville resort under construction a half mile down the street, on Casino Row.

Margaritaville will feature 100,000 square feet in gaming, 250,000 square feet in retail and a total of about 800 hotel rooms.

History shows us that every new casino resort hotel room generates 75 new arrivals and 75 new departures at the airport. Bruce Frallic will tell you that that’s 150 new passengers a year.

Margaritaville alone stands to increase traffic by more than 100,000 passengers a year at the bigger airport. Those passengers will be able to meet at the new convention center, dine in the new restaurants and visit the new visitor attractions.

Even before Margaritaville comes online in 2010, it will spawn new growth in our market.

Our governor said he wanted to see a renaissance in South Mississippi as part of our recovery.

Here in Biloxi, we’re REVIVING the renaissance that we were enjoying before the storm.

This is the most exciting time to be in Biloxi and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.