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Tourism summit to focus on overcoming challenges
BAY ST. LOUIS – An upcoming conference will provide a chance for the rural tourism community to meet the challenges they face in the upcoming months.
Rachael Carter, a community-instituted planning specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association is working hard to bring together those involved in tourism and community and economic development in rural Mississippi and Louisiana to increase tourism in these areas.
The fifth annual Miss-Lou Regional Tourism Summit, “Celebrating Change While Overcoming Challenges,” will be held in Bay St. Louis, Aug. 10-12 at the Hollywood Casino. This year’s summit will help participants determine ways to address challenges, such as the oil spill in the Gulf, funding, creating and marketing attractions, and improving access for those with disabilities.
“The focus behind the conference is how regionalism and rural tourism are powerful economic development tools especially in rural areas of Mississippi and Louisiana,” Carter said. “This year’s goal is to help communities find ways to meet the challenges of rural tourism.”
Ann Curry of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism, said the program includes exceptional sessions and speakers for this year’s Miss-Lou Tourism Summit.
“This conference is a win-win for the participants and for the Gulf Coast at a critical time,” Curry said.
Elected officials such as U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor, state specialists and tourism experts from the region will speak at this year’s summit. Roger Stolle and Nan Hughes, co-founders of the Clarksdale Juke Joint Festival, and songwriter Tommy Polk, will be discussing the effectiveness of music tourism and how other communities can promote this cultural asset. Malcolm White from the Mississippi Arts Commission will provide information on developing local arts followed by a tour of the Bay St. Louis cultural arts community.
Other topics on this year’s agenda include post-Katrina challenges, communication strategies, determining economic impacts, assessing communities for tourism, creating affordable brochures, and solving grant writing and funding challenges. Participants also will hear about developing tourism attractions around local history, storytelling and the culinary arts.
A meeting of the Miss-Lou Regional Tourism Association will be held during lunch on Aug. 11 to discuss strategies for the region. Those interested in improving economic development in the region through rural tourism are invited to join the association. Ward Emling, manager of the Bureau of Film and Tourism Development from the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism will conclude the summit with an update on current issues impacting tourism.
“Our community is thrilled to be hosting this year’s tourism summit and looks forward to sharing our rich history and culture with the participants,” said Sherri Bevis, executive director of the Bay-Waveland Main Street. “During these difficult economic times, we need to let visitors know that we are open for business and happy to serve them.”
Visit http://srdc.msstate.edu/misslou to learn more about the summit and for a registration form and lodging information. The cost of registration is $150 for the entire summit or $75 for one day only.
Registration forms and payment should be mailed to the Miss-Lou Tourism Association, P.O. Box 2180, Natchez, MS 39121. Participants can contact Carter at (662) 325-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.