Greater funds for tourism deserved

Published 12:06 am Sunday, February 16, 2014

When many people think of investing in economic development, images of smokestacks, industrial parks and other such large infrastructure creations come to mind.

But not all industries require such in-the-ground work to be successful and prove their return on investment worthwhile.

That’s particularly true in many of the so-called “green” economic development interests such as tourism.

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In Mississippi, at least from a state budget standpoint, tourism is the proverbial redheaded stepchild program in state government.

With just over $6 million to invest in tourism statewide, state tourism officals say Mississippi lags far behind neighboring Louisiana and Alabama, spending $22 million and $18 million on tourism, respectively.

The director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s tourism division, Malcolm White, says increasing the state’s investment in tourism just makes good business sense.

White said the state receives $6.46 back for every $1 spent on tourism. That’s a nice return on state taxpayers’ investment.

Tourism leaders are lobbying for a greater allocation of funds for tourism. We urge state lawmakers to carefully consider this request.

The entire state of Mississippi could benefit from having more tourists coming to the state and bringing their wallets with them.

Selfishly, Natchez should be among the top destinations to receive additional marketing dollars, given our area’s rich historic resources. But tourists won’t come here without knowing about us and believing they’ll have a great time here. That starts with marketing and at the moment, we’re being outspent — handily — by our neighbors.