Hotel Executives React To Out-Of-State Tourism Operators - - The News for South Mississippi

Hotel Executives React To Out-Of-State Tourism Operators

On Monday, the board of the Gulf Coast Hotel and Lodging Association held a regularly scheduled meeting. The first topic discussed was the WLOX News report about the toll free tourism line.

The hoteliers said they understood why an out-of-state company is answering coast tourism phone calls. What they didn't understand was why the Kansas City operators couldn't answer many coast tourism questions.

"We just have to get it fixed," executive director Linda Hornsby said. "We've got to get this problem fixed. And immediately."

Hornsby and the hotel board watched a tape of the WLOX News story.  It featured a Kansas City operator trying to answer coast tourism questions.

At one point, the operator heard a reporter say, "You're selling Mississippi Coast tourism, but you don't know anything about it?" All the man in Kansas City could say was, "No I don't."

That sort of answer worries hotel executives. "I don't think it was representative of what we want our coast, of how we want our coast to be represented," said Hornsby.

In last week's report, the Kansas City based USA-800 operator mispronounced Biloxi. He said the coast had just three casinos. And he had no idea how long it took to get from a Biloxi casino to Marine Life.

Hotel and lodging association president Mickey Culberson told me he had the same problem when he tested the call center the next day with a golf question. "I don't want to tell the tourism commission how to do their business," Culberson said. "But on the other hand, we need to be represented right down there."

On February 1, the Harrison County Tourism Commission moved its Fun Times Guide call center from First American in Ocean Springs to Kansas City.

USA-800 was one of just two companies to bid on the call center contract. The other was in Pennsylvania.

The Missouri company said it could cut costs and provide more daily information that Harrison County needed.

Hotel board members count on the call center to entice people to visit South Mississippi. They said the Kansas City operators need to learn more about the coast before they do anything else.

"Hopefully there will be the information that those agents need available to them and the training will be in place," said Culberson. "And the monitoring of that will be occurring enough so that we don't have these kinds of things sneaking up on us."

The full Gulf Coast Hotel and Lodging Association meets Wednesday. And hotel executives say the call center issue will come up. As is normally the case, Harrison County Tourism Commission members will be at the meeting. They'll try and answer any questions hoteliers have about the new call center contract with the Kansas City company.

by Brad Kessie

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