Tourism leaders upbeat about new year - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tourism leaders upbeat about new year

Leaders say destination marketing is an important piece of tourism industry. (Photo source: WLOX News) Leaders say destination marketing is an important piece of tourism industry. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Areng says one of the biggest challenges is trying to increase the number of flights that serve the coast. (Photo source: WLOX News) Areng says one of the biggest challenges is trying to increase the number of flights that serve the coast. (Photo source: WLOX News)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Destination marketing is an important emphasis of the tourism industry on the coast.

Gone is the "Convention and Visitors Bureau" label, which may have been functional at one time, but needed changing in recent times. 

“But it doesn't sound good to the traveler or general public. So, we'd like to refer to ourselves as destination marketing organizations or even better yet, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. That way, everybody will come,” said Renee Areng, Executive Director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Officials say 2015 has been a year of tourism-related development: The opening of MGM Park, the new Pascagoula River Audubon Center, and D'Iberville's first casino. The optimistic word came at Thursday morning’s Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast annual meeting at the Coliseum Convention Center in Biloxi.

“You look down Highway 90 and you see restaurants and hotels being built, so I think we're really on track for something great as we move forward,” said Rich Westfall, the board chairman of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Areng calls 2015 the "5 percent year" — the number of hotel rooms grew by 5 percent, revenue for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast was up 5 percent and gaming revenue also climbed by about 5 percent.

“There was some really strong growth overall in occupancy and ADR the years following the spill, but that really wasn't about travel and tourism. That was really about recovery and clean-up. So, being five years out and we're seeing this kind of growth I think is very, very positive,” Areng noted. 

Sports-related tourism may also be getting a boost in 2016. Leaders are currently working with a sports marketing consultant.

“We might be able to bring in amateur sporting events, don't know what those might look like. We certainly know what the low hanging fruit might be; baseball, softball. But there are a lot of unique opportunities out there,” said Areng.

The tourism director says one tremendous benefit in the coastal market is that everyone is a tourism ambassador.

“Nothing is harvested from our area when visitors come here except memories, and they go back and share that with their friends and family," Areng noted, "And we need to continue to promote the Mississippi  Gulf Coast as a premier destination.”

Areng also says one of the biggest challenges facing the tourism industry is trying to increase the number of airline flights that serve the coast market.

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