Undeniable Power: Tourism is Economic Driver for Mississippi
March 2, 2022
There is power in numbers.
Nowhere is that statement more valid than in Mississippi, where the fourth largest industry – tourism - has been a pivotal player in economic development, despite COVID-19.
"After nearly two years of unprecedented times, hardships, sickness and travel restrictions, we stand together in tourism," said Danielle Morgan, Executive Director of the Mississippi Tourism Association, who kicked off a "state of tourism" speech on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol on Wednesday, March 2
Large placards proclaimed the impact of the hospitality sector on the overall financial health of Mississippi.
In 2021, Mississippi welcomed 23.4 million visitors, who spent $6.7 billion in local economies and generated $677 million in state and local taxes. Visitors spent 24% more in 2021 than they did in 2020.
The numbers reflected are due in part to both the Mississippi legislature's swift and strategic creation of tourism recovery funding in 2020 and Governor Tate Reeves' commitment to an open economy.
But the boots-on-the-ground work of Mississippi's destination marketing organizations and their industry partners is equally laudable. In late 2020 and into 2021, these professionals ignited a slew of creative marketing campaigns inviting visitors to experience the hospitality state.
Again, looking at the numbers, their efforts paid off.
According to Tourism Economics, in September 2021, Mississippi was number one in the nation for tourism recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the state experienced less loss than other states.
While economic analysts are forecasting the tourism industry won't fully recover until 2026, state leaders say they are in it for the long haul to spur continued success.
"We are committed to investing in tourism recovery and working closely with industry leaders to continue to grow the almost $7 billion annual impact tourism has on our state," said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn echoed Hosemann, adding, "We know that travel and tourism will be crucial to our state's recovery. Tourism is a multi-billion-dollar economic driver for the state, which is why we have invested in the industry's ability to generate revenue for our state and local communities by sharing our unique brand of Mississippi hospitality with visitors."
Mississippi House of Representatives Tourism Chairwoman Becky Currie advocates for the tourism industry and understands it takes money, money that comes back multiplied for state coffers.
"If I had a dollar and I can get back $12 to $13 for every dollar I spend, I'll take that deal every day of the week. It's an easy thing to put money into tourism when you get that kind of money back. What a shame if we let that go."
Restaurateur Robert St. John closed out the program with a reminder, borrowing from another oft said cliché.
"Sometimes we can't see the forest for the pine trees," St. John noted. "We are an exotic land, and this place is amazing. We have so many stories here. And it's the tourism professionals who are telling our stories."