Fresh eyes give Gulfport new ideas for improving tourism

Group tells city what they'd like to see in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Group tells city what they'd like to see in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In looking for ideas on how to attract more tourists, Gulfport is asking those on the outside looking in what they'd like to see the city offer visitors. On Tuesday, dozens of community development experts from across Mississippi took a ride around the city. Gulfport leaders are hoping to get fresh perspectives on what the city is doing well and what it can improve on.

With cameras, notepads, and GPS devices in hand, 10 teams of experts fanned out across Gulfport. They got to see more than 150 locations from recreational attractions like Bayou Vista Golf Course to business districts like the downtown.

"People from outside the city or community come in and identify things that you take for granted everyday," said Sonny Thomas of the Mississippi Development Authority Asset Development Division. "You go by something everyday and you don't even think about it."

Gulfport is the 90th city critiqued by the MDA program, which officials said is making a difference in our state.

"We do things at low cost because we don't want you spending a lot of money. We just want you to develop the city with the most inexpensive ways you can," Thomas said. "We're there with fresh eyes to see low hanging fruit to make it a better place for quality of life for all the people in the community."

After the tours ended, Gulfport leaders received the feedback on what they're doing right and what they can better.

"Assessing our assets. Assessing our strengths and weaknesses and giving us the best direction for moving forward to market Gulfport," said David Parker, who is the Gulfport Economic Director. "Gulfport is highly driven by tourists which are all from the outside. So when you have people from this group that comes in and maps all of our assets giving us a viewpoint of what tourists would give us or what they would have and we might not be able to hear their input."

Some of the suggestions for Gulfport were to improve signage to help tourists get around, increase recreational opportunities and to have stricter code enforcement of unkempt empty lots.

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