Bill could create model for tourism funding

A Senate bill could create a permanent funding model for Mississippi tourism.

The Mississippi Tourism Association is supporting the bill that they say is a performance-based funding model. The model would dedicate 1% of total revenue collected from restaurant and hotel sales tax revenues statewide for tourism marketing beginning in fiscal year 2020. These funds will be used to enhance available tourism advertising dollars at Visit Mississippi (MDA).

The funding dedication will increase to 2% in fiscal year 2021 and to 3% in fiscal year 2022, and it would then freeze at 3%.

The MTA says it’s a performance-based funding model, and this comes after the state saw a record 24 million visitors during its Bicentennial year in 2018.

“The funding in this bill is simple – the more visitors we are able to bring to Mississippi, the more restaurant and hotel sales tax revenue will be generated to the state, and thus the more money we’ll make available for us to advertise. It’s a great incentive to work smart to bring more people to visit our great state and spend their tourism dollars in Mississippi’s economy,” Senate Tourism Committee Chair Lydia Chassaniol said. 

This bill also creates a tourism advisory board, comprised of local and regional tourism professionals, to strengthen the industry’s cooperative marketing efforts. As outlined in the legislation, these members would be appointed to the advisory board by the Governor in January 2020 and serve concurrently with the Governor.

“The funding for tourism advertising in this bill makes Mississippi’s tourism industry competitive in advertising dollars with our surrounding states.  Currently, our surrounding states are outspending us as much as five to one.  This is a step in the right direction to tell Mississippi’s tourism story to others outside our state,” Chassaniol said.

As the voice of the tourism industry throughout the state, the Mississippi Tourism Association’s membership is united in its support of SB 2193 to create a permanent funding source and advisory board for tourism promotion.

“Destination marketing is highly competitive. To reach its potential and to fortify continued growth in this industry, Mississippi must establish an annual funding stream dedicated solely to marketing the state as a travel destination,” said Dede Mogollon, president of MTA. “We have tremendous tourism attractions, including many new world-class museums, restaurants, trails and outdoor recreation. The Mississippi Legislature can level the playing field by passing this legislation.  It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Tourism is the state’s 4th-largest industry and it yielded $665 million in additional tax revenue in 2018.

The bill passed through the Senate with a 34-16 final vote, and it has been sent over to the House.