Stay awhile. You'll get it. That's the tag line tourism leaders with Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast are using when promoting all there is to see and do in south Mississippi. According to the tri-county tourism executive director, Renee Areng, Visit South Mississippi has a budget of $3.1 million this year. Of that, leaders are spending 80%, or about $2.5 million, on marketing south Mississippi to people across the country. That's all generated from the occupancy tax on hotels in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties. But that's not a lot when you compare it to other tourism entities like Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, which have an operating budget of $7 million.
The current ad campaign features south Mississippi's rich eco-tourism opportunities, various water sports, cultural museums, golf, gaming, authentic seafood, and charming shops. Tourism leaders want others to know the diversity of attractions across the coast, and how rich those experiences can be.
But Renee Areng believes we can all do more to promote this area. "I think if we get our friends and family to talk about what a wonderful experience the Mississippi Gulf Coast is, people will come. We're almost unknown to many of the world. And so, we want to get that message out."
And that message is growing. Take Biloxi baseball, for instance. Gaming executives have all but begged for more family-friendly attractions to help boost our tourism dollars. Shuckers minor league baseball is a step in the right direction, attracting thousands of fans to downtown Biloxi.
There's more on the way. Just down the road from MGM Park, you'll find the Katrina-battered Casino Magic property. The same group that revitalized the White House Hotel is about to transform that property into a first class hotel, complete with a water park, water slides, and several restaurants. The multi-million dollar project is set to be complete in the spring of 2016.
The Scarlet Pearl, D'Iberville's first casino, is constructing a world-class, 36-hole miniature golf course. That $300 million dollar casino resort is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.
And then of course, there's excitement building over plans to bring a state-of-the-art aquarium to Downtown Gulfport. City leaders have acquired 10 properties along Highway 90 to make it happen. Mayor Billy Hewes has said he's envisioning a hotel and retail space adjacent to the aquarium. The city has already secured $25 million in funding for that project.
If you'd like to learn more about how Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast is promoting south Mississippi, just visit www.gulfcoast.org.