Tourism a key to long-term recovery from spill

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The commission charged with laying out a long-term recovery plan for Mississippi in the wake of the devastating oil spill wrapped up its report this week.

It's called the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico Commission. The group is made up of elected officials, scientists, and Coast business leaders. It's one of the commissions working with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to develop a long-term recovery plan for the region.

The commission's report is called "Vision for Gulf Coast Recovery, Restoration, and Protection." 

It lays out a long-term vision to help bolster and sustain the environmental and economic health of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They're looking for public comment for the next 30 days.  

From an economic perspective, one of the Commission members, Hancock Bank CEO John Hairston, told WLOX news that restoring tourism to pre-oil spill numbers is a high priority, especially this year.

"The oil leak image that we saw on virtually every news media outlet on a national and worldwide scale back in the summer time," Hairston said. "We took a big beating from that in tourism, but we had so many workers that were here because of the clean up that they provided a cushion against the damage that we would of otherwise felt in casinos, in hotel and restaurants."

"But next summer, those thousands of people aren't going to be here. So we're depending on absolute core tourism to come back. For that reason, it's very important we see revenues available to advertise the coast, that we put on events that attract people to come back. A number of people who come here every year, might not come this year because they found another place this summer, so we have to replace those visitors."

The commission is looking for public comment for the next 30 days.

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