The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) hosted its annual Tourism Day at the Capitol today with special guests Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and statewide tourism professionals to share the tourism industry’s nearly $7 billion impact on the state economy and highlight ongoing recovery efforts.
Governor Tate Reeves noted, “I’m proud to celebrate the members of the Mississippi Tourism Association for their hard work sharing the wonderful experience Mississippi offers visitors and for the multi-billion-dollar impact they have on Mississippi’s economy. Showcasing Mississippi’s beauty, bringing more visitors into our state, and supporting the business owners who are the backbone of our state’s economy is truly invaluable work!”
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 19% more in 2021 than they did in 2020, which can be attributed to both the legislature’s swift and strategic creation of tourism recovery funding in 2020 and Gov. Reeves’ commitment to an open economy.
“Mississippi has so much to offer our visitors. We have beautiful natural resources and a rich cultural history that has contributed a lot to our nation,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. “Tourism provides the conduit to share this legacy with the world in a positive way, which is important for Mississippi’s economic future. 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.”
According to Tourism Economics in Sept. 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. Economic analysts are also forecasting the tourism industry will not fully recover until 2026. Mississippi’s tourism industry supported more than 100,000 jobs prior to the pandemic, and the steady influx of visitors over the past year has helped the state recover many lost jobs in 2020.
“As the fourth-largest industry in our state, tourism is Mississippi’s greatest tool to showcase all that our beautiful and diverse state has to offer,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. “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 has been a nationwide leader in tourism recovery, and we are proud to be a part of ensuring that we not only continue to recover, but that we come back stronger and better than ever.”
MTA organized the event, which gathered tourism partners from destination marketing organizations, chambers of commerce, hotels, gaming, restaurants, attractions, and other hospitality sectors to celebrate tourism and discuss key recovery issues affecting Mississippi communities and small businesses.
MTA also emphasized the importance of its tourism partners and their leadership as the industry works to recover steep financial losses. Restaurateur Robert St. John shared his passion and vision for the hospitality industry, noting the value of working together to share Mississippi’s story. Northeast Mississippi Community College Hospitality major Tres Jones of Alcorn County joined the group to highlight the industry’s educational and career opportunities.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the significant impact tourism has on Mississippi’s economy,” said MTA Executive Director Danielle Morgan. “Despite ongoing challenges tourism has faced as the hardest-hit industry by the pandemic, MTA is proud of the accomplishments of our members and state leaders to ensure that tourism not only recovers but continues to grow for the benefit of our state and local communities. We are committed to continued advocacy and building partnerships to transform Mississippi’s economy.”
MTA’s membership is led by board of directors, and VisitHattiesburg Executive Director Marlo Dorsey is currently serving as the association’s president.
“Today, we know we still have significant work to do to fully recover from the economic losses of COVID-19 and to reach our goal of 30 million annual visitors in Mississippi. However, today we also pause to convey our sincere gratitude to our state leaders for placing their confidence in us and investing in tourism recovery. Together, we have faced great adversity, but we have also made great strides in strengthening the future of our great state through tourism,” said Dorsey.
MTA and Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association will be co-hosting a ticketed event from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. at The South to honor legislators and tourism industry supporters. Entertainment will be provided by Mississippi native and Academy of Country Music nominated singer, songwriter and guitarist, Charlie Worsham. One of Nashville's most respected and beloved artists, Worsham released his new EP, Sugarcane, in 2021 on Warner Music Nashville. Produced by Jay Joyce, Sugarcane is an emotional homecoming for Worsham. In addition to his own work, Worsham is a frequent collaborator, having recently worked with Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Brandy Clark, Luke Combs, Vince Gill, Kacey Musgraves, Marty Stuart, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban among several others.