Tourism staff hands out special treat to South Mississippi visitors

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Guests arriving in South Mississippi this week will receive an extra warm welcome. Tourism staff members have stationed themselves at several welcome centers to greet visitors. It's part of "National Travel and Tourism Week", but that's not the only reason they're celebrating.

The enticing aroma of fresh popcorn and a huge dose of southern hospitality filled the entrance of the Biloxi Visitors Center on Monday.

"They are smiling, always smiling," commented Pauline Houdebine, who is visiting from France.

That's the kind of greeting guests can expect this week in Biloxi. It doesn't matter if you are from France, the Midwest, or just down the road.

"I love it! It's very nice. I like the coffee and the popcorn. Those are favorites," said Anne Stietenroth of Woolmarket.

This annual treat promotes "National Travel and Tourism Week". This year, the tourism staff is operating under a revised name--The Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.  And now officially, they have a unified mission, to market all three coastal counties as one vacation destination.

The new tourism commissioners won't officially start work until July first; however, the bureau has already made some minor changes.

"As soon as the governor signed the bill, we looked at everything that we have control over in our offices. Anything that our name is on that was something we could alter without spending any money, we went ahead and added that word 'regional' to it. So that was exciting," said Beth Carriere, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The event was also an opportunity to put a personal face on tourism.

"It's a good thing to get us back in touch with the people that we sell to and it's a good reminder of why we do what we're doing. It's the people that walk through that door," said Carriere.

The tourism staff will also be serving popcorn at the Hancock County and Jackson County welcome centers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

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