/New state tourism director focused on bicentennial

New state tourism director focused on bicentennial

Ray, who will take office Monday, said that his office will be focusing solely on attracting more visitors to the Magnolia state. Ray spoke to Mississippi Today as he was about to assume his new position. Ray said that even though it may be a minor hurdle, it is not something we are focusing on at tourism level. He hopes that his experience will help Mississippi return to the levels it enjoyed prior to Hurricane Katrina. Ray stated that in 2004, the first year of the Haley Barbour administration in Mississippi, there were more than 30 million tourists per year and the tourism industry was worth $6.1-$6.2 billion. Ray was appointed by Barbour to the position of tourism director at the Mississippi Development Authority in 2004. He served there for six years. The entire state has struggled to recover its tourism momentum since 2005 hurricane. These numbers dropped after Katrina. Ray stated that the number of visitors dropped from around 30 million to 20 to 22 millions. This loss of visitors has made Mississippi less popular among Southeast tourists. According to businessinsider.com in 2014, Arkansas and Kentucky were the least popular Southern states. This study examines more than 87,000 hotel bookings through one of the most popular comparison websites to determine how popular travel to different states. Ray’s top goals in his new role as tourism director are returning to 30 million visitors annually and remaining competitive with neighboring States. Ray left the position to join Talon Lobbying and Consulting Group, where he represented the Mississippi Tourism Association. Ray also served on the boards of U.S. Travel South, Southeast Tourism Society, and Travel South. According to Visit Mississippi’s FY2015 report on the Economic Contribution of Travel and Tourism to Mississippi, there is some good news. According to the report, tourism grew by 1.5 percent to 22.33 millions visitors. Tourism contributed $388.7million to the state’s economic growth as a result. Ray stated that Mississippi’s tourism industry is vital because it has a significant economic impact. Ray stated that 30 million tourists are possible if the return on investment is high and the amount of money spent is low. This will be reflected in the tourism and industry general fund contribution. It will benefit all local communities. Ray will be stepping in at a great time because there is more money to advertise than ever before. He said, “At this moment, the state, Mississippi’s tourism industry, has more tourist dollars than it had in the last 15 or 20 years.” This additional money comes partly from the first installment from the BP Oil Spill settlement. Visit Mississippi is also getting a boost of funding to prepare for Mississippi’s Bicentennial celebrations next year. Ray is only able to push for what he hopes will be a part Mississippi’s future message. Ray said, “Our best interpretation, and our best tourists are those who have been here.” Ray believes that this is the right time to gain a true picture of Mississippi’s competitiveness in the South. Ray stated that it will give us an accurate estimate of the return on advertising investment. Because of budgetary constraints, we haven’t had this opportunity in years. It’s a great opportunity to use the Bicentennial funds to be more competitive and let our advertising message really work. Ray claims that for every $1 spent in advertising, there is a $12 return. It can be hard to understand how advertising money is obtained. It can be difficult to understand how to get money for advertising.