Gov. Bryant wants to boost tourism marketing budget

Published 11:50 pm Sunday, November 30, 2014

JACKSON (AP) — Gov. Phil Bryant wants more people to know about Mississippi’s tourism opportunities.

To spread the word about Mississippi, the Republican governor has proposed spending an additional $5.1 million to advertise the state’s tourism amenities.

The tourism proposal was part of Bryant’s $6.2 billion budget recommendation he released in advance of the Legislature convening in January to begin the task of funding state government for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

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If the Legislature approves the additional $5.1 million for tourism marketing, Bryant said, “We will still be behind most neighboring states.”

Currently, the state spends $3 million annually on tourism advertising the lowest in the nation, according to Mississippi Tourism Director Malcolm White. He said Bryant is the first governor in memory to propose increasing the amount spent on tourism marketing.

All the contiguous states spend more with the $11 million annually spent by Louisiana at the low end and the $22 million spent by Alabama at the high end.

White said the state is having good results with the limited resources provided for tourism promotion.

“We think with a little more we can do remarkable things,” White said. “It will increase the possibility of exposing more people to the Mississippi story.”

White said he is confident that more people being exposed to Mississippi, which includes Civil War sites, civil rights sites, the blues, various outdoor activities, casinos and other historic sites, will create positive results.

Many of those sites can be found in Northeast Mississippi, such as Elvis Presley’s Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, multiple Civil War battle sites, Nobel Prize winning writer William Faulkner’s birthplace in New Albany and home in Oxford, the Natchez Trace Parkway and numerous state parks.

Bryant said the state gets a return of $6.64 for every dollar invested in tourism. The state had 21.6 million visitors in 2013 that spent $6.25 billion compared to 21 million visitors in 2012.

Bryant said tourism creates $406 million in tax revenue and 83,000 direct jobs.

Part of the additional $5 million would be used to provide matching grants to local tourism agencies. The local match would increase the amount spent to advertise Mississippi tourism sites.

White said the additional money would allow more advertising in markets in Texas, Atlanta, Chicago and other areas, plus would allow the state to advertise in different ways. For instance, currently the state does not do any advertising on billboards and does very little social media advertising.

It is estimated that 80 percent of the out-of state tourists to Mississippi come from six states Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. White says he believes advertising will expand that base.