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Bryant signing tourism consolidation bill Tuesday

Tuesday morning, Gov. Phil Bryant will sign legislation that will rename the Harrison County Tourism Commission the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bryant will sign the bill, which takes effect July 1, at 10:30 at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center in Biloxi.

The new regional bureau will be charged with promoting tourism across the Coast, and is designed to combine the efforts of several agencies in the three coastal counties. Members of the regional bureau will be appointed by supervisors from Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. Each county will split the new agency’s funding. Harrison County supervisors will appoint nine members; Jackson and Hancock county supervisors will appoint three each. Harrison county supervisors will set and approve the new agency’s budget.

The bill authorizes a nonvoting advisory board. It will include representatives from several sectors of the hospitality industry, including the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association and the Mississippi Casino Operators Association.

A handful of tourism agencies on the Coast have consolidated within the past few years to form a single entity that promotes tourism in the area. Consolidation of similar agencies and those charged with promoting general economic development has been a trend designed to streamline operations and save money.

Last year marked the Coast’s strongest tourism season since the 2010 BP oil spill that stretched into summer, driving down the number of visitors and related revenue. The oil spill came right after the recession had cut into Coast tourism, which serves as one of the area’s primary economic drivers.

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