Making visitors feel right at home

By Doug Walker – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Stewart Smith from Flint Creek Water Park spends the day saying hello to strangers, shaking hands, and offering up some tempting goodies at the Hancock County Welcome Center.

Smith's display board brags about the state park system, and all it has to offer potential visitors. It sits right in the middle of the Welcome Center lobby and it's hard to miss.  The message is targeted to one special group of people, and one particular city, according to Smith.

"The city of New Orleans to Flint Creek Water Park in Wiggins and Little Black Creek in Lumberton is our biggest draw and you always market to your strength," Smith said.

Part of that strength is making people feel right at home, even when they're not.  David and Jackie Cheramie are from Virginia, passing through the area on their way to board a cruise ship in Mobile.  The welcome home message worked for David.

"It's exciting and certainly gives you a lot of options when you come down here," Cheramie said.  "As a traveler, you know we get around quite a bit. And it's good to know this stuff's here because we're certainly going to come back through this way."

Smith said when times are tough and people are spending less money, marketing efforts like these are incredibly important to keep tourists coming to the Gulf Coast and keep them spending money.

"We want to take advantage of every opportunity and not let anything slip through the cracks as far as generating new business," Smith said.  "Hopefully we'll run into some people today who have just moved to New Orleans and don't know about our park system or about the state park system."

And when people passing through the Welcome Center are armed with that knowledge, chances are they might be back.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.