House bill replaces Harrison County tourism with regional board

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A bill introduced by Representative Richard Bennett renames the Harrison County Tourism Commission.  If the bill is enacted, that commission would be replaced by a 15 person regional tourism group.

House Bill 1716 says that after July 1, 2013, the Harrison County Tourism Commission would be "terminated".  It would be renamed the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.  And supervisors in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson Counties would appoint the members of that board. has learned staff members with the current Harrison County Tourism Commission would keep their jobs.

According to Rep. Bennett, "It's a good bill.  It's a much better bill than what was presented last year.  It puts the appointments in the supervisors hands."

The new regional group will have 15 members.  Harrison County will have nine seats.  Each supervisor will appoint one person.  And four other at-large selections will be made.  Hancock County and Jackson County will each have three seats at the tourism table.

"I think the business community feels comfortable with it," Bennett said.  "I think your elected officials feel comfortable with it.  It's what they asked for in their resolutions."

Why go with one three county tourism board?  "Because when visitors come, they don't see the county line," said Bennett.  "They come down here for the whole area.  If we put our money together, I believe we'll have a much better product."

Beth Carriere is the current executive director of the Harrison County Tourism Commission.  When asked about a bill that renames her board, and changes its makeup, she said her board "has been supportive of and has also been supporting the tourism efforts in all three counties for quite a while.  Regardless, we hope that any new legislation will continue the successful facilitation of promoting the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

One of the biggest supporters of the tri-county tourism partnership has been John Hairston and the Gulf Coast Business Council.  "I am very pleased with the outcome of five years worth of work," he said.  "This is the final product and debate around having an organization that can lead us to a better place for overall tourism on the gulf coast."

Hairston says this bill makes the new tourism board very transparent.  In his opinion, it spells out very clearly what the definition of success looks like, and what it takes to get there.  "This is about goal setting and strategy," he said.  "Everyone should be able to get behind it and support it."

The local and private legislation was introduce on Friday.

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