Tourism returns to Hancock County
By Cassandra Favre
Sep 3, 2013, 21:15
Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau Manager Myrna Green, left, presents Lamar Billups with a proclamation recognizing her contributions to the Mardi Gras museum. "Lamar was the initial benefactor to the Mardi Gras museum," Green said. Billups is pictured in front of the queen costume she wore two years ago. Standing next to Billups is local Mardi Gras costume maker Carter Church who served as her king.
Tourism is alive and well in Hancock County, officials said Tuesday. According to Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau Manager Myna Green, by the end of this fiscal year the visitor center will be reporting a record number of visitors.
"Last year we served about 6,500," Green said Tuesday. "This year we have served about 20,000. We saw about 100 motor coaches come through this year."
So far this year, the bureau has recorded visitors from 47 states and 14 foreign countries, Green said.
The welcome center is located in the historic Bay St. Louis train depot.
As soon as you walk into the visitor center, on your left is the Mardi Gras Museum, complete with elaborate costumes worn by Mardi Gras kings and queens of years past.
Next, tourists head on upstairs to the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum to view original paintings by the late artist and son Tom Moseley's antique furniture, pottery, art glass and bottles.
"When a typical tour comes in here, they get welcome bags complete with brochures, logo pens and notepads," Green said. "Once they have completed their tour of the depot, one of our as-needed step-on guides will hop on the bus to give a guided tour."
The guide conducts a historical tour which includes the building which was featured in "This Property is Condemned," the 1966 Natalie Wood and Robert Redford movie. The building now houses the Bay St. Louis Little Theater.
Also included is a presentation at St. Rose Catholic Church.
"It's a big fundraiser for the church, " Green said. "Visitors can purchase choir tapes, dvds and notecards.
"With an average group, the driver will park the bus and drop visitors along Main Street. They will have about three hours on their own to shop and eat at restaurants the guide has pointed out along the way. Following that, the tour bus heads to the casino for about three to four hours."
Green said that the money from BP grants has helped with promotion which includes rack cards, radio ads, Magnolia money and the creation of a tourism sign which will be placed at the Hwy 603 exit off of I-10.
"It's our goal to get them off the interstate and put information in their hands to show them this is what Hancock County has to offer," Green said.
Green ran radio ads in Louisiana which according to Green, "is where our market is."
"They hear about Hancock County and decide it's worthwhile to make a day trip over here.
"Magnolia money is a wonderful way of advertising business and putting money in their pockets, Visitors over the age of 21 come in, fill out a survey card and receive $20 in Magnolia money to spend at over 70 merchants in Hancock County."
Hiking & Biking
"Walking tours and outdoor activities are becoming a main attraction for visitors," Green said. "There is a Historic Walking and Biking Tour of Old Town Bay Bay St. Louis, Bay of St. Louis bridge, Bay-Waveland beach trail and the newly opened Possum Walk trail.
"Word is getting out, Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Hancock County are wonderful places to be. We are unique, quaint and comfortable."