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$177-million Golden Moon will enhance meeting business

CHOCTAW — With the opening of the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, a new 571-room hotel with 11,600 square feet of meeting space, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is now poised to attract more meetings and conventions to their Pearl River Resort.

Pearl River Resort’s $177-million Golden Moon Hotel & Casino will open for previews August 26 with the grand opening set in early October. The Golden Moon is a second large tower that complements the Silver Star Hotel & Casino, which has about 30,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space. With the opening of the Golden Moon, the Pearl River Resort now has a total of 1,071 hotel rooms.

Andrew HeLal, chief operating officer of hospitality operations for Pearl River Resort, said what used to be known as the Silver Star Hotel and Casino has evolved in to an elaborate resort destination with two 18-hole golf courses, a new $20-million water park and other amenities.

“We used to be the Silver Star, but we are much more now,” HeLal said. “Meetings and conventions are an important part of our business, and it is a market segment that we anticipate will grow. We have continued to develop meeting facilities and the resort amenities. The additional meeting facilities and restaurants really give the meeting attendee a variety of dining and amenity options that are not always common to our competition.”

Pearl River Resort is less a business type meeting destination, and more a resort meeting destination. HeLal said that some businesses want to make their meetings include incentives amenities.

“If you are in a center city hotel and are looking for a short business meeting, you will go to a business hotel for that meeting,” HeLal said. “What we are finding is there are small businesses and associations and corporate conventions that want to be able to provide some creature comforts to give attendees an opportunity to relax and dine and play. It is an incentive. So when you choose a resort property you are rewarding your attendees with these additional amenities.”

Some of the perks at Silver Star include a luxury spa, and Golden Moon has a new state-of-the-art fitness center that will complement existing amenities at the resort. Meeting attendees often either come early for a couple of days, or extend their stay after the meeting to enjoy the resort.

In addition to media publicity and marketing by word of mouth, Pearl River Resort is doing a direct mail campaign to reach meeting planners and association decision makers. A number of familiarization trips have been held to introduce meeting planners and the media to the property.

“Our direct sales effort has been ramped up,” HeLal said. “Our expansion has been a major thrust for our sales effort. We have additional rooms and meeting facilities. We are already entertaining several proposals from groups that previously couldn’t book here because of our limitations in the number of hotel rooms. So this has opened us up to the marketplace.”

One feature attractive to meeting planners is that the property now has 15 restaurants and six lounges, which provides an array of options not available at a standard business hotel. When planning meals and entertainment, there are many different options to choose from.

Another factor that can be attractive is that the resort is self contained and not located in a major metropolitan area.

“I think one of our inherent advantages is the beautiful countryside in which we are located,” HeLal said. “We are not going to lose our meeting attendees to the street, so to speak. In our location we have a captured audience. A lot of meeting planners like that. If you are going to Jackson, Biloxi or New Orleans, you are very likely to lose people to the street. But because we are a complete and inclusive resort, there is plenty for our attendees to do when they are not in the meeting.”

HeLal said they have not experienced any decline in business as a result of Sept. 11. Instead, they have actually picked up business as a result of economic conditions. Companies are more likely to have employees drive within a region than they are to fly to another destination.

“We’re in East Central Mississippi, and are drawing from four or five states as a result of that,” HeLal said.

Pearl River Resort also includes two 18-hole golf courses that are part of the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, and the new $20-million Geyser Falls Water Park that opened in July. The water park, located in the 285-acre Lake Pushmataha recreational development, includes 12 major waterslides, a large wave pool, a continuous river and other amenities.

In addition to the water park, new recreational attractions include Hollywood Star Cars, cars of the movies and television, and Star-tacular, a water and laser light show. With the opening of the new hotel and casino and new recreational attractions, employment at the Pearl River Resorts is expected to reach 7,800 with investments totalling $750 million.

“Pearl River Resort offers visitors of all ages more than just gaming, and it’s the only resort development of its kind on an Indian reservation,” said Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin. “The resort will employ more than 7,800 after the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino officially opens in September of this year and represents a $750-million investment by the Choctaws in the State of Mississippi.”

For more information on Pearl River Resort, visit http://www.pearlriverresort.com.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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