State tourism is focus for lobbying efforts - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

State tourism is focus for lobbying efforts

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

From beaches and casinos to golf courses and fast paced fun, it's big business for Mississippi.

"The tourism industry is wide reaching," said Neal McCoy, legislative chair with the Mississippi Tourism Association.

McCoy says that industry pumps in about $380 million a year into the state's budget and claims about 82,000 jobs.

The problem, McCoy says, is that Mississippi has the lowest advertising budget in seven surrounding states, which is why the association is making lobbying efforts for additional funding a top legislative priority.

"We do not have a level playing field with our competitors," said McCoy. "It takes public and private dollars invested into our state to drive that visitor spending."

"Advertising is the way we get business. We want people to come and see what we've got here but we have to let them know about it," said state representative Rita Martinson, chair of the House Tourism Committee.

Martinson, a Republican from Madison, says for every dollar spent in the name of tourism, the state gets at least a seven dollar return. With budget cuts on the table for the Development Authority, which oversees tourism spending, Martinson says it could hurt the state.

"If we're cutting the MDA budget by 19 percent that's proposed, it's going to be very hard for them to be able to operate," said Martinson.

Despite the budget concerns, one area of concentration is the movie business. Martinson says the state needs to look at working on a larger incentives package for film companies and producers to keep up with neighboring states like Louisiana which have more lucrative deals.

"Our incentives package is already good but we can make it better to make it more enticing for them to come here," said Martinson.

Friday morning the Development Authority will announce a new director of state tourism. The position has been empty since the Spring.

Copyright 2012 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

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