The Mississippi Gulf Coast is Open for Business
6 May 2010 – In response to numerous media reports relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the shore of Louisiana, Mississippi state officials are working to inform tourists and recreational and business audiences that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is open for business.
The State of Mississippi continues to monitor and assess the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and state agencies are working with federal response agencies and BP officials to track the path of the oil spill and make preparations in case the spill should reach the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) is working with the state’s lead response agencies, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, to stay informed of the latest developments and to assess the potential impact the oil spill might have on business and tourism on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of our state’s greatest treasures. We are concerned about the short and long term impacts this spill will have on the businesses and individuals that make their living from the sea and on our tourism and hospitality industries,” said Gray Swoope, executive director of MDA. “Unfortunately, at this time, it is irresponsible speculation and inaccurate reports that are having a negative impact on Mississippi Coast businesses that are still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina and the global recession.”
“As Governor Barbour has said, we will hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and we are taking preventative action to protect our beaches and fisheries; however, the facts are that our beaches are open, our restaurants and hotels are open, our waterways are unrestricted and fishing charters are operating. I hope people will continue to monitor the situation and make their travel plans based on facts, and I encourage travelers to visit www.VisitMississippi.org for the latest information.”
The following statement was released by MDA’s Tourism Division:
“The Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division is working closely with partners across the Mississippi Gulf Coast to monitor the situation involving the oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. With more than 78,000 Mississippi residents directly employed in the tourism industry and tourism revenue adding $357 million to the State’s General Fund each year, we encourage consumers to rely on sound information before making or changing their travel plans.”
“It is important to understand that the State of Emergency Declaration issued by the Governor is not an indication that there is any danger posed to the public but is rather a procedural step that enables greater resources to be used by local officials and response agencies as needed.”
“It continues to be safe to travel to Mississippi and to our beaches that border the Gulf. It is vital that we take this opportunity to communicate to policymakers, health officials, opinion leaders and the media about the critical role travel plays in our economy to ensure appropriate responses as new information becomes available.”
MDA’s Tourism Division has received the following updates from its tourism partners and the hospitality organisations on the Mississippi coast:
- Beaches: It continues to be safe to visit Mississippi’s beaches, and the state’s beaches are open and unrestricted. Beach vendors continue to operate as usual.
- Hotels and Casinos: These businesses are open without disruption.
- Restaurants: Restaurants on the Mississippi coast are open for business as usual.
- Recreational Boating, Fishing and Water Related Attractions: All water activities and tourism attractions that operate on the Mississippi Sound are open, though boating restrictions may occur in some smaller passes due to booming operations.
- Charter Fishing: All recreational and commercial fishing in Mississippi waters is open, including charter fishing and recreational and commercial crabbing. While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has restricted fishing for at least 10 days in the federal waters off the Mississippi Sound, the closure does not affect Mississippi waters.
With regard to other business areas that could be impacted by the oil spill, in working with representatives from these industries, MDA has learned the following:
- Ports: The state’s coastal ports remain open to commercial traffic. Furthermore, the U.S. Coast Guard has stated the Port of Pascagoula and the Port of Gulfport are at “status normal” and all waterways are open with no restrictions.
- Business and Manufacturing: Operations have not been affected. The military bases and installations on the coast have reported they have not been affected, either.
- Seafood Industry: The agency has also communicated with seafood industry representatives on the coast. These entities remain concerned about the situation and the uncertainty regarding how the spill will affect them. The shrimping industry has expressed concern over the uncertainty of the spill’s potential effects but industry representatives were most concerned, at this point, with the 10-day stop fishing order affecting the federal waters off the Mississippi Sound. The oyster industry continues to have serious concerns about the long term impacts the spill could have on the state’s oyster population. Industry representatives have stated that if oyster reefs are exposed to oil pollution, the oyster population could be devastated. The state’s seafood products are inspected by the Mississippi State Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure Mississippi seafood is safe and of the highest quality.
MDA staff will continue to stay in close contact with these organisations, and as the agency receives updated information as it pertains to these areas of potential impact, it will make that information available. MDA will continue to keep the public informed with regards to the potential effects of the oil spill on travel, tourism and the state’s businesses.