Tourism groups reaching for common ground

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Facing a deadline imposed by the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, several tourism organizations are working to reach common ground.

John McFarland, with a regional tourism partnership spoke to the Biloxi Businessmen's club Thursday about the importance of bringing everybody in the tourism industry together to make sure we advance the Coast as a tourist destination.

"Everyone involved has the same goal and that's to grow tourism. We're just looking at how to do it differently and that's healthy," MacFarland said.

McFarland's group, called the Premier Destination Initiative, an off shoot of the Gulf Coast Business Council is attempting to build a bridge of between PDI and the Harrison County Tourism Commission.

According to McFarland, the two groups can get on the same page.

"The supervisors have given us a deadline to find a way to either consolidate or work together and avoid conflict. We've had two meetings this week to set things up," McFarland said.

In those meetings, the Premier Destination Initiative came up with 14 objectives ranging from blending public and private money in a transparent way to including all sectors of the tourism industry to making the Coast competitive with other Markets.

"Most convention and visitors bureaus around the country are a public private mix so you have private sector money and public funding. Based on what we've learned from them our effort was to help the tourism commission become this regional organization," said McFarland.

There is a sense of urgency because almost $15 million in BP grant money is on the line. The funds can't be used until the different groups form a single organization.

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