Tourism group focuses on small town charm

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - By Al Showers – bio | email

BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of people travel I-10 through Hancock County everyday. Tourism leaders say one of their challenges is getting those drivers off the highway and into area businesses.

"Rural areas have a disadvantage that most of the time people think of us as a pass through to get to another destination," President Mississippi-Louisiana Rural Tourism Association Wilbert Carmouche said. "Our goal is to let the people know what there is to do when they're passing through."

Tourism has been tough for many small coastal communities the last five years. First hurricane Katrina; then the economy soured. Now, this year, the BP oil spill kept visitors away from the coast.

"It is unfortunate that storms and other things such as BP that happened as well this year. Those are things that you can not change, you have absolutely no control over," Carmouche said.

According to Carmouche, the key to overcoming natural and man-made disasters, is to accent the positive.

"Let's say the beaches are closed but yet downtown is thriving, changing your focus work on downtown," Carmouche said.

He said tourism leaders should concentrate their financial resources on advertising what the community does have to offer.

Sherri Bevis is the Executive Director of the Bay-Waveland Main Street Program.

"What we're specifically targeting is really small town tourism. It's how our unique small town can really pull people in," Bevis said. "It's the special shops. It's the little restaurants. It's not that big town you go to like Washington, D.C., or New York, but it's a different niche."

A niche she hopes to sell to the rest of the world.

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