Restaurants want to help promote South MS tourism

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A bill that would promote South Mississippi as one vacation destination is expected to be signed into law by the governor Tuesday. A 15 member tri-county tourism board will also be created under this bill to replace the Harrison County Tourism Commission. The Gulf Coast Chapter of the Hospitality and Restaurant Association is hoping to claim one of those spots.

From the Golden Arches to great Southern cuisine, restaurants are on almost every corner along the coast.

"What is the first thing you think about when you go somewhere? You think about what restaurants are at the location," said Scranton's Restaurant Owner Richard Chenoweth.

Chenoweth knows that from experience. He's been in the restaurant business for more than 25 years in Jackson County.

"We are ambassadors with tourists every day," Chenoweth said.

Because of that knowledge, the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association wants people like Chenoweth to have a voice on the 15 member regional tourism board.

"Good experiences and good food is the way people want to spend their money," Gulf Coast Chapter Executive Director Bridgette Varone said.

They brought their first request to Jackson County supervisors Monday, The board has three spots up for grabs. They, along with Harrison and Hancock counties, will choose members to market the coast.

"Who better to represent the tourism industry than those who have stake in the game," Varone said.

Supervisors said the association has a valid point and will consider the request.

"We are looking for folks, like the hospitality industry said, that have a stake in this. Someone that has a business in Jackson County and that is very involved," Supervisor Mike Mangum said.

For the folks who don't make this three member team from Jackson County, supervisors are discussing a plan for them to still help in the decision making process.

"We are trying to capture all of those people that wanted a piece of this and form a local Jackson County committee where we will help feed info to the three board members," Mangum said.

Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant officials said they will remain hopeful they can be part of the team that shows off what South Mississippi has to offer.

Governor Bryant is scheduled to have a bill signing at the Coast Coliseum at 10:30 a.m.  Both Jackson and Hancock counties will have three representatives on the board. Harrison County will have nine members.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.