Tourism Partnership Telling Millions About Mississippi Coast and Jackson County

The complete article, “Tourism partnership telling millions about Mississippi coast and Jackson County,” by April M. Havens originally appeared on on November 19, 2012.

Philip ShirleyPASCAGOULA, Mississippi — Carrying a message that the Mississippi coast is a vacation destination, the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership has reached more than 100 million adults through various media, GodwinGroup CEO Philip Shirley told Jackson County supervisors today.

The partnership — a public-private entity formed in April 2011 to administer $16 million in BP grant money — has reached 76 million adults by television and 56 million by magazine.

GodwinGroup is one of several advertising agencies working to promote the area.

The ads and TV spots, along with associated websites and social media accounts, have highlighted gaming, the beaches, nature, events and other tourism features in Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties, Shirley said.

The partnership is the culmination of a cooperative, tri-county approach to market and promote the coast as a whole, an idea that gained momentum after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

It includes representatives from all 3 counties, with Jackson County being represented on the board by Margaret Miller, of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, and Carla Todd, of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

From January to August, the partnership spent about $428,000 per month on marketing, Shirley said.

With that marketing boost, gaming revenues were up through September.

When comparing March-September revenues in 2011 to the same period of 2012, there was a $5 million jump, he said.

Tourism tax collections are also up 4 percent this year, he said, and leisure and hospitality jobs are up 4.4 percent.

“Tourism is important to all of us,” Supervisor John McKay said. “Y’all are doing us a good job.”

Looking forward to 2013 and 2014, the group will focus on working with local industry to create more specific tourism offers, such as deals where vacationers buy two nights at a hotel and get a third free.

They will promote the casinos and beaches, which have the most interest, and shift their media attention to TV and digital, which have proven to be most effective.

Also, they will give additional exposure to weddings, golf, eco-tourism and fishing.

Jeff Wilkinson, of Gautier-based Eco-Tours of South Mississippi, told supervisors and partnership representatives that his business has grown as a result of the marketing, and small businesses should remain a priority.

Before, he said, most vacationers were on the coast for some other activity when they ended up at Eco-Tours as a side trip.

But over the last 2 years, he said, Eco-Tour is getting calls from people who want to visit Gautier specifically to take a swamp tour, and then they’re building their vacations around that.

With the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership and the Harrison County Tourism Commission both working separately toward a similar goal, he said, “I just hope political turf wars don’t get in the way of building something that will help small businesses.”

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