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Mississippi hospitality boosts tourism

As I See It

In this week’s Mississippi Business Journal, we turn the editorial focus to tourism. This segment of the state’s economy has become increasingly important in the past decade or so, and it’s an area that we can continue to grow if we just keep doing what we’re doing the way we’re doing it.

Tourism dollars are important because of the money tourists spend in our state. Gasoline, food, lodging and gaming all result in more dollars fueling our economy and generating taxes that support state government.

What causes someone to give a new travel destination a try?
Planting the seed for a potential first-time tourist to visit our state is largely the job of advertising. However, once the decision is made to give Mississippi a try, the responsibility for enticing visitors to return again and again shifts to us, the citizens of the great state of Mississippi.

On the road again

Mississippi is blessed with warm and friendly people. Hospitality is something we know how to do well. Our tradition for making visitors feel welcome is a strength for our economy. We’re just plain, good folks.

I’m reminded of some experiences I’ve had while traveling both here and in other states that cause me to smile. For example, I know when visiting Corinth that I’m going to enjoy my stay at the Hampton Inn. Those folks provide a stellar example of how guests want to be treated. Always ready to make fresh coffee at odd hours, accommodate a late checkout and even provide to-go boxes for carrying some pastries and coffee on the road.

The penchant for helpfulness runs deep in our Mississippi society.

I know two women who have recently experienced flat tires around the metro Jackson area while driving alone and both had men stop and change their tire. Though a potentially dangerous situation, both were rescued by strangers willing to get a little dirt on their hands to help someone in need with no expectation of reward beyond a thank-you. Though the situation was not nearly so onerous, I, too, had a flat tire several years ago on U.S. 49 South and a young man stopped and changed my tire.

It’s those little things

Earlier this year, I was visiting relatives in Central Louisiana during the first leg of a trip that would ultimately take me to our hunting lease in the Texas Hill Country.
After the visiting was done, I decided to push on as far as my energy reserves allowed before stopping for the night. After driving the back roads through Leesville and passing Toledo Bend Reservoir, I managed to cross into Texas before my eyes signaled it was time to bed down for the night. It was about midnight and I was in downtown Jasper, Texas.

While checking out the next morning, I asked the motel cashier for a map so I could figure out where I was and which way I needed to go. She produced a well-worn atlas and I began planning my route. Without my asking, she offered to photocopy the east Texas page so that I wouldn’t have to memorize the details. It’s those little acts of thoughtfulness that make traveling less stressful and create positive memories for visitors.

Gaming, history, so much more

Without doubt, the introduction of gaming to Mississippi has been a big shot in our tourism arm. The influx of tourists attracted to our casinos paved the way for beautiful new golf courses, restaurants and other attractions. Our Civil War history is also a draw for people from all across America who want see where that part of our history actually took place.
Being the state that gave birth to the blues and rock-and-roll is another important piece of our heritage that we share with visitors.

As impediments to racial progress and our reputation for intolerance slowly give way to a new and better era of racial reconciliation, Mississippi will increasingly benefit from becoming a popular tourist destination.

Everything we do from keeping trash off our roadsides to giving directions to strangers plays a part in our reputation and our future in the tourist industry.

Thought for the Moment— Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. — Hebrews 13:2

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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