We need more non-gaming amenities, Holloway tells gaming audience

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told gaming industry insiders today that the city’s casino industry is making a slow and tedious recovery, but the industry and the entire coast’s tourism industry won’t enjoy its pre-Katrina success until more non-gaming amenities are constructed.

“I firmly believe that we will continue to do OK,” Holloway said to an audience at the Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi, “but I have to ask you: Is that what we really want? To do OK?”

Biloxi has seen nearly $800 million in new commercial and residential construction since Katrina, “but you wouldn’t know it when you go along the beachfront,” the mayor declared.

“And make no mistake,” he added, echoing the words of hotel industry leader Linda Hornsby of Biloxi, “the beachfront IS the face of tourism.”

The area needs to rebuild its “tourism infrastructure,” Holloway said: “the family attractions, the restaurants, water slides, the water parks, the miniature golf, and so on.”

Once those things are done, he said, we’ll see more visitors, which will increase the 60 percent occupancy rate in non-casino hotel rooms, and more hotel rooms will be constructed. Today, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has about 75 percent, or 13,000, of its 17,000 pre-Katrina rooms. About 6,600 of those rooms are in Biloxi, which had more than 9,000 rooms before the storm.

Holloway asked gaming industry leaders to help grow the market and take advantage of local and state tax incentives: “You’re smart people. You know what it takes,” he said. “Build more amenities. I know you’re in the casino business, but you’re also in the tourism business.”

During his remarks, the mayor also said the latest infusion of BP funding — $15 million for advertising — should be used to promote gaming and non-gaming recreational opportunities, and cultural attractions and events such as the Ohr-O’Keefe and Walter Anderson museums, Beauvoir, Ship Island, the Blessing of the Fleet, Mardi Gras and others.

Said the mayor: “These are the things that made us special before the storm — having the total package — and that’s what we need to get back to.

“We need to give people more reasons to come here and we need to remind them of those reasons.”

Read the text: To see the full text of Mayor Holloway’s remarks,
click here.

News and notes

Historical reminder: The monthlong celebration of Biloxi’s history and culture kicks off this afternoon at 5:30 at Guice and Glennan parks at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. Drop by the free event to learn more about Biloxi’s long affair with the military. To read more, click here.

Road work: The city’s Public Works Department each weekday posts a Traffic Update on the city web site, providing a status report on road work throughout the city. To read today’s report,
click here.