JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A new era in tourism promotion on the Gulf Coast begins this week. The newly formed Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is now tasked with promoting the three coastal counties as a single destination for potential visitors.
At the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch, the main attraction is snapping up the food tossed in by tourists. The gators are a big hit. For one of the owners of the ranch, he's also snapping up the idea of a single destination approach.
Curtis Silver offered his thoughts.
"I think it's a great idea. Mostly we've been promoting ourselves for a long time and ever since the hurricane we had a hard time getting the word out that we were open. And now with the media and everything it's a great idea," Silver said.
One of the main attractions that Jackson County has to offer is eco-tourism. In other words, Mother Nature can be a big seller when it comes to drawing tourists. And nowhere can that be found better than at the wildlife refuge for the Sandhill Crane.
"We get tourists from Europe and from all over the world coming here to specifically to see the Mississippi Sandhill Crane. So I think it will help," Refuge Manager Danny Moss said.
Most of the money for the operation will initially come from Harrison County, but that will probably change in the future, according to Pascagoula mayor Jim Blevins.
"Well, I think we will have to find the mechanisms to fund this. I think we're all going to work hard. We have a new council here in Pascagoula. I know they're going to be very supportive of trying to fund this and make it work," Blevins explained.
Will the new commission have trouble co-existing and creating a marketing plan for the coast?
Richard Chenoweth represents Jackson County on the commission and said he hopes not.
"I don't think so, based on what I've seen so far and I've worked with a lot these people over the years on different boards, with the Restaurant Association and in different scenarios. And it's a good group. It really is and I think they have one vision," Chenoweth said.
That vision could mean a new beginning for the coast, not to mention new tourists. The new tourism bureau has 15 appointed commissioners, nine from Harrison County, and three each from Jackson and Hancock counties.