BP awards $3 million to coast tourism

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Jessica Bowman – email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Coast tourism industry is still trying to get back to where it once was. Wednesday's announcement that BP will give $3 million to help fund coastal activities will go a long way toward that goal.

Applause echoed around the room as the President of the Harrison County Tourism Commission, Kenneth Montana, announced the grant money.

"Working together we can put the wow, the wow, back into a trip to the fantastic Gulf Coast," Kenneth Montana said.

Back in June, the commission approached BP privately with a plan. That plan would maximize tourism and provide supporting funds for our local events.

"We came up with a vision to create a foundation, a fall promotional campaign. A fall combination of events and festivals and attractions and activities to market an extravaganza that would stretch over two and three months," said Montana.

A $1,175,000 payment will support Harrison County events and activities including Biloxi Seafood Festival, Chefs of the Coast, Cruisin' the Coast, horse shows, Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association Charter Boat Fishing Tournament, Fall Classic Mississippi Youth Soccer Tournament, Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Rendezvous & Harbor Grand Opening, Magnolia Classic USFA Fast Pitch Softball Tournament, Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and a Familiarization Tour of convention and coliseum facilities by national tourism magazines, agencies and media.

In Hancock County, a $995,000 payment will support events and activities including motor coach promotions, Second Saturday Art Walk, Diamondhead Arts & Crafts Fair, a country concert weekend, a Cruisin' the Coast event in Hancock County, WaveFest and Snowflakes on Mississippi's West Coast.

And in Jackson County, a $580,000 payment will support events and activities including the Ocean Springs Art Walk, Mississippi Gulf Coast Blues & Heritage Festival, Walter Anderson Museum of Art Exhibit Opening, Zonta Festival, Ocean Springs Feast of Flavors, Welcome Center Familiarization Tour, a Cruisin' the Coast event in Jackson County and the Gautier Mullet & Music Festival.

A $250,000 payment will promote golf tourism in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties and provide incentives for golfers who book a 3-day/3-night golf package. MGCGA will invite to participate and work with any lodging property located in the three Mississippi Gulf Coast counties that can manage golf packages.

The funding amounts for each event have been designated by BP. Montana said the money given has to be used on related benefits to the coast by November 7 of this year.

"We can do this. We can attract these extra people to our resort destination," Montana said.

The $3 million will be split between the Harrison, Hancock and Jackson County tourism boards along with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association. This payment is in addition to the $15 million BP gave the state for tourism promotion in May.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.