Eco-tourism could give the coast a huge boost

Eco-tourism could give the coast a huge boost
After lunch, the group boarded a boat and took a tour of the Pascagoula River basin. (Photo source: WLOX)
After lunch, the group boarded a boat and took a tour of the Pascagoula River basin. (Photo source: WLOX)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Now that the coast is being marketed as one single destination, those in charge of getting the word out need to know what the entire coast has to offer. In Jackson County, that something is Mother Nature. So commissioners, staff members, and ad agency executives representing the Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau took a look around on their own tour of the county.

The first stop, Davis Bayou in Ocean Springs. Then a short walk along the nature trail, followed by a pep talk from the park ranger. There were lots of questions and even more pictures. Eco-tourism at its best on display.

Molly Kier just moved to the coast. The tour is a real eye-opener for her. "It's super important because we have to represent the area through advertising and we need to tell its story. So seeing it firsthand is great and really inspiring," Kier said.

"This is a great opportunity to remind people what we have here on the coast, how unique these places are from beaches to barrier islands," said Jill Mastrototaro with the National Wildlife Federation.

Eco-tourism brings in millions of dollars each year - $39 million at Davis Bayou alone. Tours of the Sandhill Crane Refuge in Gautier are popular, as well.

"It's becoming more important. We've got to pull more tourists in here," business owner Richard Chenoweth. "You know, we've lost a lot of locals in Jackson County and it has really hurt business."

What will help businesses are tourists like Doug and Pat Stephen from Colorado. They have one priority when planning a trip.

"Nature is pretty much the decision," Doug explained. "The geology, the biology, the botany is what we're looking for, so I would say that is the number one deciding factor."

The group also toured the Pascagoula River as part of Tuesday's program. Commissioners with the convention and visitors bureau then held their monthly meeting at the Grand Magnolia Ballroom in Pascagoula, the first time such a meeting has been held outside of Harrison County.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.