Thigpen to Lead MTA Board As President

July 3, 2024

The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA), the state's voice of tourism for over 35 years, has announced its elected board of officers for 2024-2025. Visit Jackson's President & CEO, Rickey Thigpen, PhD, has been selected to serve as the state association's president, effective July 1, 2024.

He is the first African American male to serve in this capacity, and ironically, his predecessor, Wanda Wilson, was the first African American to serve in the role.

For the past 34 years, Dr. Rickey L. Thigpen has held multiple management positions in the administrative and marketing disciplines. Since February 1, 2019, he has served as President & CEO.

Thigpen is a member of numerous professional organizations, including Destinations International, where he serves as an association executive board member and co-chairman of its CEO Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee. He is a member of the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors, Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership Board of Directors, and the Downtown Jackson Partners Advisory Board. He also serves as an officer of the Capital Area Tourism Association.

Thigpen is also civically engaged, including Rotary International—Jackson Chapter, 100 Black Men of Jackson, Inc., Mississippi Valley State University National Alumni Association (Life Member), Greater Leadership Jackson Alumni Association, Alpha Foundation, Inc. (Vice-Chairman), and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., where he served as the 10th Mississippi District Director.

Rickey is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He holds a baccalaureate degree in Computer Science from Mississippi Valley State University, a master's degree in Leadership from Belhaven University, and a Ph.D. degree in Organizational Leadership from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Thigpen was named Mississippi Tourism Association's Member of the Year in 2019. Thigpen has appeared multiple times in Black Meetings & Tourism magazine as one of the most influential African Americans in the tourism industry. In 2020, Dr. Thigpen received its coveted APEX Award and was featured on its cover in 2021. Thigpen was recognized by the Events Industry Council in 2020 and was honored to receive its Social Impact Award.

Thigpen is a Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church member, serving on the music staff and public relations ministry. Rickey Thigpen's mission is "to be a lifelong learner dedicated to imparting knowledge to, uplifting and empowering those he is so fortunate to influence."

The executive board also includes the following members:

  • Laura Beth Strickland, Executive Director - Visit Vicksburg: President-Elect
  • Kurt Allen, President & CEO – Mississippi Aquarium: Vice President
  • Paige Hunt, Director of Tourism - Visit Starkville: Secretary/Treasurer
  • Christy Burns, Executive Director - Visit Corinth: Past President

In addition to executive board leadership, the MTA Board of Directors comprises three members from five regions throughout the state and three at-large positions.

"Tourism is a vital multi-billion-dollar industry for Mississippi, which reflects the dedication of our tourism leaders and the strategic vision of state and local officials who have committed to investing in tourism growth," said Danielle Morgan, MTA Executive Director. Our members have elected strong and capable leaders who will guide our association in revitalizing and expanding tourism across all sectors. The Mississippi Tourism Association benefits significantly from the commitment and expertise of our volunteer leaders, whose contributions are essential to our ongoing success and the future of tourism in our state. With this incredible team, we are well-positioned to drive our organization and Mississippi tourism forward."

President Dr. Rickey Thigpen said, "Tourism is a crucial economic driver in Mississippi, weaving together the state's cultural heritage, natural beauty, and hospitality to create a tapestry of experiences that captivate and enrich visitors worldwide. As the President of the Mississippi Tourism Association, I am excited to continue a tradition of excellence and economic vitality for our great state. Mississippi Tourism is proud to boast that it is the state's fourth-largest employer, generating $7.5 billion in visitor spending in 2023. Last year, this activity saved each Mississippi household $663 in taxes while providing 105,000 jobs for Mississippians. The Mississippi Tourism industry is committed to utilizing collective ambition as its strategy, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for our citizens and a sense of place for visitors."