Tourism industry gets expert advice on dealing with oil disaster - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tourism industry gets expert advice on dealing with oil disaster

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A new tourism commercial will make it television debut on Wednesday. And you can catch daily reports about Mississippi destinations on YouTube and social networking sites. The ad campaign is administered by the MDA.

"To let them know that it's safe to come here. It's safe to have a vacation. So we're re-messaging. We're telling them again, over and over, the true story is that we're here, and we're open for business," said Sandy Bynum, with the MDA Tourism Division.

It's the same message the NTA and the world renowned public relations company Edelman are trying to push. They hosted a free seminar in Biloxi on Tuesday to share expert advice on how to build business during this oil crisis and how to use the media as communication partners.

"We're suggesting that we get the right information out to the rest of the country, to understand that there's plenty to do on the gulf coast. There are many, many areas that are not affected by the oil spill," said Cathleen Johnson, an Edelman executive.

But many in the tourism industry say it's tough to overcome images of tar patties and clean-up crews canvassing the beach.    

"It's just eerie. I can see how it can definitely scare somebody that's not from around here," said one seminar participant.

"Our mission is to make people aware that tourism is still happening here and visitation is something that they can consider, because the beaches are beautiful and there are lots of things to do besides the beaches," said NTA President Lisa Simon.

The next challenge is trying to keep the positive stories going when the oil well is capped and the media leave the state.

"We want them to leave here communicating the fact that this is a very vital vacation region," said Johnson. "We don't want them to kind of swoop back out of the area, leaving everybody with a negative perception of what's happening here."

On Wednesday, NTA and Edelman will be offering the same seminar in Houma, LA. And at the end of the month, they will be hosting the free seminars in Gulf Shores, AL and Pensacola, FL.

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