Bus Tour Teaches Tourism Workers About Biloxi

A program designed to help tourism workers better understand the needs of visitors is gaining popularity. The Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce says more people are signing on for their "Frontliners Familiarization Tour."

The tour takes tourism workers on a bus ride around the city, highlighting points of interest. Chamber officials say it's mostly people who deal directly with tourists like restaurant and hotel employees. These people are the ones tourists are most likely to ask questions about where to go to enjoy activities other than gaming.

Officials say tourism workers can't point visitors in the right direction if they don't know themselves. The tours give workers lessons on historic and family oriented sites, like the last home of Jefferson Davis. By the time they finished the tour everyone claimed to know a lot more about Biloxi, whether they'd lived on the coast a few months, or all their lives.

"It showed me a lot that even with me living down here, I was not aware of." said coast native Jennifer England. "We have a lot of sites that are really out there for the tourists to go see."

The tour is open to all chamber members, but it especially targets hotel front desk workers and concierges.

Mandy McClure of the Biloxi Bay Chamber said "When people come and stay, the front desk people are who they go to to ask, 'what do I need to do. What can I do?' They just need to be familiar with the area, and know as much as possible, so they can help inform these tourists."

Some tourism workers say being better informed will enable them to have some answers for their guests' questions.

"We don't feel so unknowledgeable when they ask questions because we're from here, and we know exactly what to tell them and where to send them," said concierge Michelle Taylor.

The Biloxi Bay Chamber and Hotard Coaches put on the tours every other month. Other stops include the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, Tullis Manor, and Keelser Air Force Base.