$3 million from BP to boost South Mississippi tourism

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism groups received a financial boost from BP Wednesday.  The company is providing $3 million for advertising to promote fall tourism events and activities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help counter the negative publicity from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The payments are being distributed through the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau, the Harrison County Tourism Commission, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association.

These agencies provided input to BP on events and activities that would maximize tourism and related benefits to the Mississippi Gulf Coast immediately and through the peak of the fall Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism season. The funds are to be spent on activities and events before Nov. 7, 2010.

Harrison County's share is the largest: $1,175,000.  Among the events the money will support,  the Biloxi Seafood Festival, Chefs of the Coast, Cruisin' the Coast, horse shows, fishing tournaments and other sporting events.

Hancock County received $995,000.  Tourism leaders will use that money to promote motor coach trips, art events like Second Saturday Art Walk and the Diamondhead Arts & Crafts Fair, as well as, a country concert weekend, and Cruisin' the Coast activities in Hancock County.

Jackson County received $580,000 to support popular events and attractions in Jackson County like the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival, Walter Anderson Museum of Art Exhibit Opening, Zonta Festival, Ocean Springs Feast of Flavors, and the Gautier Mullet & Music Festival.

"BP is providing these payments to local agencies to help boost tourism along the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Heidi Grether, Mississippi external affairs manager for BP's Gulf Coast Recovery Organization. "With the payments announced today, BP intends to add to the benefits already being realized by a $15 million tourism promotion payment the company made to the State of Mississippi in May.

Beth Carriere, executive director of the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau stressed the impact the tourism funds will have for her destination.

"This funding allows us to not only enhance some of Hancock County's existing tourism events, but to create new efforts that truly bring positive financial impact to our tourism-related businesses," Carriere said. "One program in particular that will be immediate is targeting group tours for overnight stays and shopping with our Magnolia Money visitors voucher program at local retailers and other small businesses."

"This payment allows the Coast Golf Tourism Partnership to launch a new, immediate Coast-wide golf promotion," said Kevin Drum, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association and Coast Golf Tourism Partnership. "This promotion will not only help our local golf courses, but also restaurants, hotels, attractions, casinos, shopping and even seafood suppliers all along the Gulf Coast."

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