State tourism numbers up - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

State tourism numbers up

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

It's the fourth largest private employer in the state and this week, the travel and tourism industry is being spot-lighted across Mississippi.

"It's how we tell our story. It puts our best foot forwards. It achieves economic development and civic pride all in one swoop," said State Tourism Director, Malcolm White.

White says despite years in a recession, state tourism is up, which means big money for the state. In fiscal year 2012, 21.3 million people visited the magnolia state, spending more than $6.1 billion. That put $400 million in the state's general fund.

State leaders say for every dollar spent on state advertising, the return investment is between six and seven dollars. To keep up that pace, Governor Phil Bryant is calling on the folks of Mississippi to continue to show some southern hospitality to tourists.

"Citizens of this state must take the time to say 'Welcome, glad to have y'all here," said Bryant.

WIth Mississippians serving as their own ambassadors, White says the state needs to work on attracting younger travelers, beyond gaming which is the number one tourism contributor.

"Mississippi has a great natural resource. We need to talk about outdoors other than hunting and fishing," said White.

Whether it be internationally, regionally or even locally, state leaders say Mississippi has come a long way, but still has a long way to go marketing the state as a premiere tourism destination.

"We are not going to give an inch when it comes to the challenges of tourism and competing with other states," said Bryant.

"We want people to come here, have a great experience, go away and tell their neighbors and friends and their family that Mississippi is the funky but really cool place," said White.

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