Toll Free Tourism Operators Are Able To Answer More Coast Questions

The USA 800 operator was asked for information about a Mississippi Gulf Coast golf and casino trip. She talked about the casinos first.

"I believe all of them are nice," the operator said. "So I really don't have any recommendations. But I can give you some of their titles and their 800 numbers, and you can call them directly and get more specific information."

Specific information. That's something this operator said she wanted, so she could properly answer tourism inquiries. Here's an example of what she wanted to know.

"Is there something that you're looking for in a golf course that could help me decide which one's you would be interested in?" she asked. Moments later, she mentioned courses built by Jack Nicklaus and Mark McCumber.

The phone call lasted nearly six minutes. The operator offered a lot more information about South Mississippi tourism than a conversation WLOX News had a month ago with another USA 800 operator. That untrained operator couldn't even pronounce the name Biloxi. The recently trained operator had high marks for the Biloxi area and its attractions.

"It has a lot of nice dining and other attractions," she told the WLOX caller. "A lot of shopping and things for women if they don't play golf. And the hotels are really nice also."

Misty Velasquez was the Harrison County tourism representative who went to Missouri after our March report and trained operators. She sat down with us and listened to a recording of Monday's call. And then she placed her own call to the toll free number.

In both cases, she said the operators did better. "I'm pleased," Velasquez said. "Once again there are some areas that could be improved. But overall, she was pleasant and she tried to help the caller. And that's what we need."

Velasquez said USA 800's main focus is to mail Fun Times guides to people who call for information, and to direct the callers to Coast web pages.

The Harrison County Tourism Commission moved the tourism inquiry line to Missouri on Feb. 1, 2002. Velasquez said USA 800 can provide the county daily updates on where calls come from.