Loss of State Tourism Ads Hurt Coast

State revenue collections are down, and that's starting to take its toll on the agencies that count on that money. The Harrison County Tourism Commission says normally it benefits from ads purchased by the state. However, the state didn't run ads in the fall and as a result, 26,000 fewer people called the coast, looking for tourism information. One coast attraction says it depends on word of mouth for its success.

"Tourism is the economic survival of the Gulf Coast and for the Lynn Meadows discovery Center, so we're going to do everything that we can to work with tourism to make sure families continue to come to the Gulf Coast," Discovery Center director Betsy Grant said.

Because of innovative programs, the museum has had steady businees this winter.  But for others, it's been a long, cold hibernation.

The Harrison County Tourism Commission says some of that is due to a drop off in state ads. Back in October, November, and December, when the state stopped running tourism ads, the number of people who requested information about the coast dropped 96 percent.

But businesses in need of a shot in the arm may have a solution on the horizon.

"I think things like this cruise ship program can do a lot to help all attractions along the coast," Joe Feil of the Coast Attractions Association said.

"It could be a gigantic impact in terms of visitors on a weekly basis that come," Steve Richer said.

If the state doesn't come to the rescue, tourism leaders say the cruise ship may be what keeps future fourth quarter tourism afloat.

by Danielle Thomas