HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi is being asked to more than triple what it spends convincing tourists to visit the Magnolia State. On Tuesday, the Mississippi Tourism Association met with Speaker of the House Philip Gunn to discuss increasing the tourism marketing budget from $3 million to $10 million.
Tourism leaders said it's about spending money to make money. That's why they're pushing state legislators to put more funding into the Visit Mississippi marketing campaign. Tourism leaders said if we're going to get more visitors interested in a Mississippi vacation, we need a louder voice, and that takes money.
"Our competitive set has a lot more money that they're spending," said Renee Areng, Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau Director. "Whether it's Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina. They're spending on marketing their states."
Areng said, "They can't come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast if they don't come to Mississippi, so we're certainly in support of more marketing dollars for the state of Mississippi."
Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said he likes the idea of increasing tourism spending, but cautioned much will depend on making the budget numbers work.
"If we're taking it out of growth or we're taking it out of BP oil money, then hopefully we won't have to take it from other places," said Gunn. "But so much of that depends on the economy and how the economy is doing. We've been fortunate, I think, over the last four years to see a rebound from the recession and hopefully we can continue to see increases in revenue there."
Tourism leaders believe this is more of an investment than an expense.
"We got a report last week that for every dollar that is spent on marketing the destinations in the state of Mississippi, more than $12 is spent in the state," said Areng. "So we know it's an economic development tool and the return investment is better than any bank we can put it in, for sure."
"Tourism creates jobs," said outgoing Coast Coliseum Director Bill Holmes said. "That's the number one goal of the state of Mississippi right now is about creating jobs and giving people the ability to live a quality life. That's what tourism does. So I think it's up to our leadership to find that money. Maybe not go to the max that tourism leaders are asking in Jackson, but to at least increase it sizable enough to make a difference."
The Visit Mississippi marketing campaign is run by the Mississippi Development Authority.