Focus Groups Critique Coast Tourism Promotions

The Stephensons are vacationing on the coast from London, Ontario. They added the Biloxi Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum to their itinerary only after hearing about it from other travelers.  "They raved about it," Fran Stephenson said.  "So we thought, well we should take a look at it."

When asked if they would have visited the museum if nobody told them about it, Blake Stephenson said, "No, the unfortunate part is you would never know about a place like this."

The Stephensons think that's unacceptable. So do the people involved in a new research project. They told coast tourism leaders that while the beach and casinos are major draws, Harrison County can only be a destination if the tourism commission does a better job of promoting the seafood museum and other attractions like it.

According to tourism director Steve Richer, "The upside is as we have consistently found out through other research, that when people are exposed to the full range of products here, they think it's great."

The most recent research was done the last two weeks of November. Tourism leaders questioned focus groups in four southeastern cities. One of the things the groups mentioned was that spending less time advertising the beach, and more time advertising the coast's other features could make the area more attractive to potential visitors.

Robin Krohn of the seafood industry museum said, "I think it would be tremendous for our museum."  Steve Richer took the more comprehensive marketing plans a step further.  He said, "That's the kind of destination that we want. One that stands on a lot of legs."

Tourism leaders heard about the focus group findings at today's tourism commission meeting. The findings will help their advertising committee work with marketing experts on a new way to sell South Mississippi attractions.

by Brad Kessie