It's no secret that tourism is an economic driver here on the Gulf Coast. Every year, Americans spend close to $1.7 billion visiting the three coastal counties, which is why the Hancock Chamber of Commerce is busy this week showing the state's tourism sales team around the different destinations the county has to offer. New 25 was able to catch a little bit of the tour Wednesday. News 25 spoke with both the chamber and the sales team to find out why this trip is important to the tourism industry here on the Coast.
Hancock County has been struggling to make a full economic recovery ever since it was leveled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the nearly nine years since, officials have been strategizing, building, and renovating key ingredients for making a comeback. That is why the Chamber of Commerce has invited the state tourism sales team from Jackson to participate in a Familiarization Tour.
Tish Williams, the Executive Director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, says, "Everything is new since Katrina, and so that’s what this opportunity is, an opportunity to showcase the tourism attractiveness of Hancock County to the main sales team for the State of Mississippi, who are out there working all of the marketing places, to market our tourism, from meetings and conventions and the tour groups and the travel writers to boost business for the Mississippi Gulf Coast." One of the Coast's biggest assets is family attractions, something travelers specifically look for when planning trips.
Chris Chapman, the Manager of the Mississippi Tourism Sales Team, says, "We have a lot of requests for family attractions and I think the Coast is probably one of the number one family oriented sites in our state, so we're really thrilled to see all of this activity." The teams says that so far, one of the most impressive places they've visited is downtown Bay St. Louis. Jennifer Spann, a Public Relations Agent for the Mississippi Tourism Sales Team, says, "I love Bay St. Louis, the small town feel, the walkability, people riding bikes, the cool little shops, the restaurants. It’s just kind of a different side to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s kinda’ fun and I think visitors will be a bit surprised about."
There's still one more day of the tour ahead, and Hancock County officials hope to make the most of this two day visit by showing just how much it's built up since the storm that tried to tear it down. On Thursday, the team will head north to destinations in the Kiln and to the Infinity Science Center.