13 organizations receive BP tourism grants

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Industry leaders are optimistic this could be the year the number of visitors to the Mississippi Coast gets back to pre-oil spill numbers. In the meantime, BP continues to provide funding for advertising to help lure vacationers to our attractions and events.

The Gulf Regional Tourism Partnership award $1.7 million in BP grant money to 13 organizations including  awarded through the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership.

  • Gulf Coast Coaches Clinic–$6,475
  • Gulfport Music Festival–$35,000
  • Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic–$665,000
  • Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art–$195,000
  • Peter Anderson Festival–$40,000
  • Pro Players Coaches Clinic–$25,000
  • Scrapin' the Coast–$55,000
  • Southern Gaming Summit–$175,000
  • Southern Kingfish Championship–$50,000
  • Smokin' the Sound–$25,000
  • Sun & Sand Film Festival–$235,000
  • Bay Bridgefest–$75,000
  • Cruisin' the Coast–$75,000

The Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic used its grant to pay for coverage from the Golf Channel which allowed the event to reach millions of people this past week. So in between birdies, tournament officials took the opportunity to spread the word about what the Coast has to offer.

"From this visitor's center and our beaches to Ship Island to our great fishing," said Steve Nieman, Tournament Director. "To our great golf courses, our great museums. All of the things that we are here we use the golf tournament as you will to run infomercials about the coast. For the past two years."

This is the second year BP funding has paid for the broadcast.

Nieman said, "$655,000 this year, a little over $700,000 last year. "I think what it does is it creates financial stability for you long term and allows you to provide money to local charities which is obviously one of the goals we have with this tournament. So having the grant money, it does that."

BP's marketing grants are to help oil spill affected communities attract visitors. Officials said while local tourism numbers finished flat in 2012, in 2013 there is reason for hope.

"I am optimistic about this year," said Linda Hornsby of the Mississippi Hotels and Lodging Association. "I think this might be the year that 2010 would have been had it not been for the oil spill.  January, February, March, we were seeing the numbers inching up. They weren't soaring but they were inching up as had been predicted. Then the oil spill from there everything changed."

Tourism Partnership officials said the 13 grants awarded mark the last round of grants from the $16 million they received from BP for tourism marketing.

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