$16 million from BP to promote Gulf

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - An announcement made Friday that BP will award the coast $16,000,000 for tourism promotion has left the coast tourism industry with reason to celebrate.

Unlike last year's grant, controlled by tourism officials in Jackson, a three county coast tourism partnership will be in full control of how this money is allocated.

"The men and women and the families of the tourism industry should be ecstatic today; it is a fantastic day for our industry here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Kenneth Montana, President of the Harrison County Tourism Commission.

Last year, the Mississippi Authority Development partnered with a steering committee and managed the funding awarded by BP. Overall, they were successful, however the new plan promises local control. A move many feel was well overdue.

"We've been through Katrina. We've been through the oil spill. We've been through the hurricanes. We have the experience and the capability of doing it. We know how to do it, and we're going to do it now," Montana said.

"We're competing with markets who routinely spend $10-15 million. We've never had that opportunity. Last year we had it, under unusual circumstances. This will help us to spend some more money over the next couple of years and grow this area to it's potential," said John McFarland, Co-Chairman of the Premier Destination Initiative for the Gulf Coast Business Council.

Tourism advocates say the idea is to fund advertising that will help show the world what the coast has to offer and get them to visit the many wonderful attractions. Though the advertising will be focused on people outside of the coast, McFarland said the success of the plan will be evident.

"If we continue to be successful, you'll see more tourists. More tourists means more tax revenue, and it means more jobs in the tourism industry," McFarland said.

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