Commissioners discuss tourism bureau applicants

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Filling hotel rooms and convention space is going to be the top job of whoever is selected as the new director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On Friday, behind a closed door, seven commissioners with the bureau met to discuss who will be next to lead tourism in the state's number one visitor's destination.

The committee reviewed nearly 40 resumes and all the applicants have one thing in common-- experience. That experience is what commissioners say is a must for the heart of Mississippi's tourism industry.

"Mississippi Gulf Coast is a leader in tourism for the state of Mississippi. And it provides a lot of tax revenue from tourism here. In fact one third of the tourist tax revenue is generated here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Rich Westfall the MS Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau chairman.

Knowledge and experience in tourism is what Westfall says will help bring more entertainment to the Gulf Coast and ultimately more tourists. That's why the new executive director will have an extensive job description.

"The person is in charge of the staff, works with the 15 member commission, tourism commission and also works to bring in convention business, tour and travel business," said Westfall.

In addition to experience, the committee will also be looking for a key attribute in candidates.

"The number one attribute is it comes from leadership. Being able to build consensus with the staff, with the commission, with the tri-county effort, which is beginning in July. And I think that leadership is going to be important," Westfall said.

Westfall says someone with high level leadership skills will lead to bringing more conventions and visitors to the coast. Former director Beth Carriere resigned in November. Currently the interim director is Crystal Johnson.

While a new director still has not been selected, commissioners have mapped out which resumes stood out to them. Westfall says thanks to the Go Coast 20-20 tourism report; the new director will get a head start when he or she begins. The deadline to apply was December 31.

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