Four States Form South Coast USA Tourism Alliance

A van loaded with tourists arrived at the Biloxi lighthouse. That's where August Taconi always parks his Biloxi Tour Train. The tourists had reservations on the train. "There are a couple of open seats right in front there," Taconi said, pointing his guests toward the train.

A seat on board the Biloxi Tour Train takes you through the heart of the city. For an Ohio couple, Biloxi was stop number two on a Gulf of Mexico vacation that started in New Orleans. "Then we're going over to Destin, Florida," Don Deemer said, "spend three days there, and then start heading back for the snow."

Many of the people on the tour train had similar itineraries. Their vacations included visits to Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida hot spots. The proximity of those four states is why tourism leaders in those states decided to become marketing partners.

The head of this new marketing initiative is Brenda Scott. She described the partnership this way, "We've all come together to form an alliance that will ultimately become America's favorite vacation spot and playground."

Members of South Coast USA were on a bus tour of the four state area to talk about their joint tourism goals. According to Scott, "It's our mission to let these domestic and international travelers know that there is a whole new coast to be discovered."

Mississippi Gulf Coast leaders think the marketing agreement has great potential. Jim Pitts is with the Harrison County Tourism Commission. He said he thinks "the tremendous benefit to all of our region is going to be very, very beneficial to all of us in the next few years."

The new coast extends from Pensacola to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Michelle McInnis is with the Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's what our main goal is," she said, "to get everybody down here to visit all the destinations."

The Biloxi Tour Train operator said that's already happening, without the joint marketing effort. He thinks the South Coast USA partnership will work. "Many of the people that I see coming through are traveling through those states." Taconi said. "It might be a good opportunity for people to try some cooperative marketing."

Last year, the 11 convention and visitors bureaus in South Coast USA each contributed $4,000 to the marketing partnership. This year, they chipped in $5,000 apiece.