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Gulf Coast Biloxi Harrison County

COVID-19 not yet impacting visitation and conventions on Coast and Jackson

By BECKY GILLETTE

The situation with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S. is rapidly changing. An example is the number of states with confirmed cases went from 19 on March 6 to 34 states and the District of Columbia on March 9.

There is great concern about nose dives in the U.S. stock markets, and how fears of the virus could stop people from traveling — particularly on airplanes. But two of the largest tourism destinations in the state are reporting no impact yet on conventions.

Visit Jackson is working in concert with other leaders in the tourism industry, sharing our resources to collectively keep our offices, visitors and, convention attendees safe, said Kim Lewis, communications and destination development manager. Visit Jackson.

“I do not believe visitation to our attractions has been negatively impacted,” Lewis said March 6. “Next week is spring break for many metro area students and I do not anticipate there being an issue with attendance. In fact, we have several attractions with featured admission and programming specials associated with Spring Break 2020.”

Their advice for meeting/convention planners is to listen to data and advisement from creditable health protection agencies. She said Visit Jackson is committed to keeping abreast of information from those agencies and acting as an information liaison for our visitors, clients, and stakeholders. 

» READ MORE: Employers should come up with a consistent and effective plan for a possible epidemic

“We will continue to monitor the situation and will cooperate with directives from the Hinds County Board of Health (HCBH), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control,” Lewis said. “HCBH is working in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Health to monitor the spread of COVID-19).”

Destinations International, the international parent body of the destination management organization industry, has prepared a Travel Industry Resource Page that includes information and resource websites as it relates to health experts, meetings and events, venues and facilities, hotels, and airlines. https://destinationsinternational.org/covid-19-coronavirus-travel-industry-resource-page

The U.S. Travel Association and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition continue to encourage travelers to exercise healthy travel habits and to follow guidance by official sources of public health information. Lewis said currently the risk to Americans remains low, and there are no restrictions on leisure, business, or event travel anywhere within the United States.

“Continued participation in meetings and travel in the U.S. is encouraged after consulting the latest travel guidance,” she said.

Milton Segarra, CEO of Coastal Mississippi, said team members and their partner agencies are closely monitoring the potential impacts the coronavirus may have on traveler intentions to their destination.

“After conducting outreach to many of our industry partners, we are not seeing any negative changes to booking patterns or cancellations directly related to possible threats of coronavirus at this time,” Segarra said. “We will continue to keep our partners informed so they can prepare and address any concerns from current or prospective travelers to The Secret Coast.”

Several other major convention and visitors bureaus in the state either declined to comment or did not respond before the deadline.

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About Becky Gillette