Tourism Leaders React To MDA's Plan To Bolster Industry

Shirley Shoemaker won the Isle of Capri's employee of the month award. She's one of 90,000 Mississippians who built careers in the tourism industry.

"I love to work in the casinos," moments after she won a trophy and $500. "Casinos are very, very good. Very good to work for."

Many people will tell you casinos have become the backbone of Mississippi tourism.

"As time moves on, it's going to get to be a bigger, bigger industry here," said Isle general manager Bill Kilduff.

Kilduff's company runs four Mississippi resorts. And its corporate headquarters are based in Biloxi. So what the state development authority does to promote tourism has a profound impact on the Isle's bottom line.

"We certainly encourage and strongly ask for as much support through the state agencies and the local agencies to support tourism as a whole," he said.

Tourism director Steve Richer was at the Wednesday luncheon where Mississippi's new development boss said tourism should become Mississippi's number one service industry.

"For someone who's background is really from the commerce side to recognize the importance of the industry, that's really good," Richer said.

The Wednesday speech pointed out what Isle employee of the quarter Tracy Baker already knew.

"There are a lot of good people out their involved in the tourism industry," she said after receiving her award. "And the gulf coast has a lot to offer."

Baker learned that years ago from her boss -- the late Billy Creel -- a man who always said tourism should be king in the magnolia state.

Several people WLOX News contacted Thursday questioned how the development authority could bolster tourism without giving it more money. During his speech, director Speed said financial support wasn't necessary to make tourism the state's number one service industry.