Tourism is topic at chamber’s luncheon

Published 9:32 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

In seeking out additional funding for tourism in Mississippi, Visit Mississippi director Malcolm White said one option to be considered is using the word assessment instead of tax.

“Tax is a terrible word, it’s worse than most four-letter words,” White said, during the monthly chamber luncheon held at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

If every hotel room in the state had a $2 assessment fee, the tourism industry could increase its effectiveness by $12 to $15 million over night, he said, and the money would be paid by people coming into the state to visit.

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As the director of Visit Mississippi, White’s role includes the overall management of the division and the development and implementation of short and long-range plans to create economic growth and opportunities for Mississippi through tourism.

“Anybody that wants to stay up late at night and talk to me about a way to fund tourism I would love to hear it,” White said.

Tourism is the fourth largest private sector non-farm employer in the state employing 115,000 Mississippians with 85,000 direct jobs, with the remaining number to indirect jobs, he said.

It is a growing industry, White said, returning $6.46 to the state coffers for every $1 that is given to the tourism industry to spend.

“We talk about the number of people employed. We talk about the economic impact, and we talk about the return on investment. Eventually people are going to be drawn to appropriating more money,” White said, but because tourism is not considered a “top tier” government funding option other methods of funding for tourism should be considered.

“Some states have special taxes on hotels. Some states have special taxes on rent-a-cars and some states have these hybrids where it is part appropriation and part tax,” he said, but Mississippi tourism dollars get bogged down in appropriations, and however much is left for marketing and advertising is what the industry receives.

Currently tourism receives $9 million from the legislature, but only $3 million is used for direct marketing and advertising, White said.

There is potential for Mississippi, White said, referencing the growth that Oxford has seen and added Vicksburg too, has many resources.

“Here I see nothing but opportunity, great assets, great landscape, a great story and great leadership,”  he said.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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