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Tourism Commission Faces Tough Sell
Meets with Ad Agencies to Hear Proposals

By Keith Burton - GCN   2/13/07

How do you sell the Mississippi Coast to a national audience just 17 months after the nation's worst national disaster? That question was on the minds of the Harrison County Tourism Commission Tuesday.

The commissioners met with a variety of major advertising agencies to hear their proposals on how to present the rebuilding Gulf Coast to encourage visitors to come back to play at the casinos and golf courses, shop and tour the area's remaining charms.

The tourism commissioners will select a company February 22nd to handle advertising for the commission. The challenge is a tough one because attracting visitors is tough for any area and the competition is keen. This year, the commission is hearing proposals from major ad companies.

Commissions also asked the ad agencies how they would handle emergency communications, just in case the area suffers another storm.

The August 29, 2005 hurricane severely damaged the Mississippi Coast and most Coast cities are far from completing repairs, that include businesses on the beach and government buildings.

Biloxi is clearly in the best shape. Its casinos are back in operation and the city is making headway in new construction and replacing amenities that were destroyed by the storm.

Still, the main bridge across the Biloxi Bay to Ocean Springs is under construction (two lanes are to open in November) and many of the area's restaurants and smaller motels have yet to rebuild.

Moving west into Gulfport, Long Beach, and Pass Christian, the situation is more difficult.

What the ad agencies recommend is that the massive reconstruction and rebuilding that is underway provides a new way to market the Coast. That the area is well into rebuilding and its current amenities are as good as anywhere if not better. The strengths are still the beach, the casinos, and the unique ambiance that the Coast has always relied upon, then add the new, but the overall message will likely be...the  Coast is Back.

It will be interesting to see what the message will be.

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