Hotel occupancy rates approaching record high

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - In all, about 30 hotels are nestled along and in other areas near the interstate in Meridian. At least two are currently under construction, and the head of Visit Meridian expects even more will open. Dede Mogollon says this is greatly due to high traffic.

"We see 1.23 million cars a month come through Meridian on Interstate 20/59," says Mogollon. "That's 44,000 a day. Meridian is one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the state. We are trending to be over last year's numbers, and this year we will top out at the highest hotel occupancies ever in Meridian."

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, the manager at the Hilton Garden Inn say business is good.

"We've really exceeded any expectations that we had for this hotel," says Steve Anderson, who is also a longtime member of the Lauderdale County Tourism Commission.

"Tax revenues and occupancies are way up in Meridian from where they were in 2005 with Katrina, and that was kind of our benchmark here," says Anderson.

The visitors who we found at hotels in Meridian on this day came from throughout the Southeast region and other parts of the country.

"We have traveled so far, and we're on our way to Texas." says Ed Greenalch from South Carolina. "Meridian just happened to be a good place to stop."

"Hotel room taxes, occupancy taxes produced $800,000 this past year," says Mogollon. "It's estimated that visitors' spending in general, added another $1.4 million to the city's general fund. You know, that paves streets and pays the police, and helps to bring all of our tax bills down. It's very important for Meridianites and other local county residents to understand that these are other people coming into our community and paying our bills for us. So, they're very important."

There are six hotel regions in Mississippi. The East Mississippi Region includes: Meridian, Philadelphia and Forest. Of those, Meridian is leading the pack.

Last year the East Mississippi Region posted the highest hotel occupancy average within the state. It also had the highest rate within the East/South Central U.S. Region as a whole.

Mogollon says hotel numbers in Meridian have consistently trended at the top for the past four years.