Flanked by local elected officials, business leaders and tourism leaders, and members of the Legislature, Gov. Phil Bryant today signed a bill that creates a unified, Coast-wide tourism partnership.
House Bill 1716, establishes the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau to serve as the official tourism agency for the Gulf Coast region.
"Tourism is a huge industry in Mississippi--especially on the Gulf Coast--and this is an exciting day for the region and for the state," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "The Gulf Coast offers so many wonderful, diverse opportunities for visitors, and I am very pleased to see local leaders joining together to market the entire region as a premier destination."
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach.
"Having this bill signed into law today represents the hard work of many people," Rep. Bennett said. "Bringing Coast leaders together will accomplish great things for our region, and I am excited to see what the future holds."
The 15-member Bureau will include nine members from Harrison County and three members each from Hancock and Jackson counties. Members will be appointed by the Board of Supervisors in each county.
The Bureau will also enter into operating agreements with each participating county to establish performance measures and ensure that goals are met efficiently.
Gov. Bryant's GoCoast 2020 report recommended a regional tourism commission to jointly promote the Gulf Coast. The push for a Coast-wide effort began in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, and the Gulf Coast Business Council and other Coast leaders have supported this bill.
"The Governor's signature of HB1716 is the first step in an incredibly important series of tasks which must be completed in coming months," said John Hairston, Chief Executive Officer of Hancock Bank. "The newly appointed Board and Advisory Council, along with Bureau management, must establish quantifiable goals for tourism growth, clear strategy for reaching those goals, and then partner with stakeholders and elected leadership to execute agreed upon strategy."
"The Harrison County Tourism Commission focused on advertising, which is obviously important," Hairston continued. "The Gulf Coast Regional CVB will greatly expand focus to include leadership, goal-setting, strategy development, monitoring and transparency. HB1716 is the beginning. The end is when the Mississippi Gulf Coast reaches premier destination status."
In addition to appointed members, non-voting advisory members will also collaborate with the Bureau. One member each from the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, the Mississippi Casino Operators Association, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Attractions Association, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association and the Mississippi Coast Sports Commission will work with the Bureau. The Bureau may also collaborate with other related tourism associations.
Nearly one in five jobs on the Gulf Coast is tourism-related, and the Gulf Coast tourism industry accounts for roughly $1.7 billion of $6.16 billion in tourism expenditures throughout Mississippi.