Survey Results Please Tourism Commission

The Harrison County Tourism Commission heard Tuesday about the results of what is known as the Ploug survey. It's a questionnaire that some 450 visitors to the Coast are asked to fill out, and it's done four times a year. When the results of the first quarter of this year were released to the Harrison County Tourism Commission , the commissioners liked what they saw.

For a long time, those in the business of promoting our area, have tried to get the word out that we are more than casinos, it seems to be working. The visitors survey found that in the first quarter of last year, 55-percent came here just to gamble, for the first quarter of this year only 38 percent said gambling was the major reason for coming to the coast. The Executive Director of the Tourism Commissions was very pleased.

"This is really incredible," says Steve Richer, "People are looking at us not just as a gambling destination, more and more they have other major reasons for coming even though they do still have a high percentage for casinos."

There were other impressive numbers, for example, 91 percent said they were not just satisfied, but instead "very satisfied" with their visit here.

According to Richer, " That is a very high number, there are some destinations that would be happy to have 90 percent satisfied at all."

The survey also found that 40-percent of those coming here live within 250 miles of the Mississippi Coast, and the average age of a visitor is 57.

Tourism officials are mighty pleased, but they also acknowledge there is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to bring in more people from outlying areas. Misty Valasquez of the Tourism Commission says that involves covering a broader area of the country.

"We have potential to grow in some of the outer markets like Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, but they are ranking high in our markets," says Valasquez.

There is one other thing that helps keep people coming back, and it can't be measured in any statistical analysis. Steve Richer says it's all about the people here on the Coast.

"I think the single most important thing is and will continue to be, the attitude of the residents of our area and the way they greet people here." Richer went on to say, "There is no way to measure how important that is, when our visitors form an opinion about the Mississippi Coast, we have the friendliest people in the world."

By Jeff Lawson