Tourism accounts for more than $156M annually in Hancock Co.
By Geoff Belcher
May 2, 2014, 19:25
Members of the Mississippi Society of Association Executives on Thursday toured the Mardi Gras Museum inside the historic Bay St. Louis Depot. The group conducted its spring convention at Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis and toured the Bay and Hancock County extensively between seminars.
Hancock County officials were busy over the past few days preparing for the 31st annual National Tourism Week, which begins today and runs through May 11.
"We want everybody in Hancock County to know about it and put their best foot forward and make our visitors feel welcome," Myrna Green, executive director of the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau, said Thursday.
"Last year, we had over 20,000 visitors come through here at the Visitor's Center (at the Bay St. Louis Depot) and we're on track to top that for 2014. They're coming earlier and faster this year."
As of last year, Green said, tourism made an estimated $156 million annual impact on Hancock County alone, accounting for roughly 18 percent of the county's entire economy.
"The numbers are pretty dramatic," Nikki Moon, owner of the Bay Town Inn and a member of the Hancock tourism bureau's board of directors, said Thursday.
In Hancock County, there are currently 1,845 jobs directly related to travel and tourism jobs, Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber, said last week, with $17 million in state and local taxes and fees attributed to tourism.
" Without the contribution of these tourism dollars - each household (in Hancock County) would pay an additional $999 in taxes every year," Moon said.
On Thursday, Green and Moon helped welcome members of the Mississippi Society of Association Directors to the Visitors Center and Mardi Gras Museum at the Depot.
The visit was a real shot in the arm for Bay St. Louis and Hancock County, Green said, since each of the association directors leads his or her own separate group that might decide to hold its own conference here.
The Visitor's Center at the Depot is one of the first places Hancock residents should direct friends or family who are visiting from out-of-town, Moon said.
"Make sure when someone comes to visit, the Visitor's Center is their first stop," she said. "All the weddings that come here, the family reunions, all those people are tourists, although we don't always think of them that way."
"We do 'welcome bags' for all of those groups," Green said, with brochures, souvenirs and coupons for visitors, as well as "Magnolia Dollars" during part of the year.
There are several events scheduled locally for National Tourism Week, including:
• The Hancock Chamber will host the "Rally at the Alley Bowling for Tourism Tournament, on Thursday, May 8, 4-7 p.m., at Park Ten Lanes in Diamondhead,
"It represents the community’s collective call to showcase the importance and impact of tourism and travel on jobs and economic growth on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Williams said.
• At the Hancock County Welcome Center at I-10: Today, Anastasia Walrod 2014 Pearl of the Pass will welcome tourist to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
On Wednesday, May 7, visitors will be treated to some special entertainment for “Hancock County Day”. From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the entertainment will include the Diamondhead Line Dancers and the “Mississippi Gentlemen.” The “Mississippi Gentlemen” specialize in old pop tunes, country standards and western swing.
On Saturday, May 10, beginning at 10:30 a.m., St. Rose De Lima Drum Line and Praise Dancers will perform.
For more information, call the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau at 228-463-9222.