sunherald.com

 

Via sunherald.com

The Coast’s tourism arm has little to complain about these days.

At a discussion Friday morning at the Knight Nonprofit Center, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Executive Director Renee Areng said tourism on the almost 80 miles of the Coast brought in almost $2 billion in 2016.

Here are five reasons Areng gave for the thriving tourism industry, and why expectations are high for 2017:

During the conference, Areng unveiled “50 Faces of Tourism,” a new promotional video. It showed 50 people picked to represent tourism on the Coast. Business owners such as Shannon and Octavio Arzola of Gulfport’s Pop Brothers frozen treats were featured, as was Biloxi historic administrator Bill Raymond.

But several young professionals also were featured, including Corey Christy, director of marketing and development at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art and Blackwater Brass bassist; Ocean Springs’ The Greenhouse on Porter owners Jessie Zenor and Kait Sukiennik; and Gulfport communications director Chris Vignes.

Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast launched a new app this week. Areng said its development process was lengthy, but worth it because it’s another way for locals and visitors alike to find new restaurants and attractions.

“This was the longest gestational process ever,” she said. “It was longer than the giraffe’s — but it’s a great app.”

Areng also praised the many restaurants and eateries on the Coast.

“Food is one of the top three reasons people travel,” she said. “You have a Sound-to-table experience on the Mississippi Coast.”

As a bonus, the new app can be used to find restaurants — just look for the blue shrimp signs.

With a tourism budget “significantly less” than other tourism destinations such as the Florida Panhandle, Areng said Coast tourism is able to do more with less.

“For every dollar that Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast spends, there’s a $43 return from those who visit,” she said. “People like to come here and stay longer and spend more.”

$1.9 BillionMoney spent by the more than 6 million visitors to the Coast in 2016

Areng said Visit MGC’s website, GulfCoast.org, was revamped in 2016 with a specific social media–integration feature.

“All of the pictures on the website are actual posts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram,” she said. “If you hover over them, it shows the actual post if it’s tagged #MSCoastLife.”

Jeff Clark: 228-896-2329, @thejeffclark